Council Debates Draft Of Budget

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Town staff and members of the council met Thursday to examine the preliminary budget numbers and make suggestions to Chief Financial Officer Glenn Smith and Town Manager Fred Carpenter.

At the beginning of the meeting, Smith announced that the police department had secured a $25,000 grant for their methamphetamine program which will alleviate some pressure on the general fund.

Water Cop

"What changes do you want to make?" Carpenter asked the mayor and the five councilors.

Councilor Judy Buettner was absent.

With the invitation from Carpenter, Councilor Dick Wolfe asked about funding for a water cop for the town. Smith confirmed that there was money in the water fund designated for the position.

Mayor Ken Murphy asked why, during a tough budget year, the town was adding staff.

"Other communities are laying off staff and we're adding employees," Murphy said.

"When we passed the water conservation plan, it was pointed out at that time that the voluntary program did not work," Wolfe said. "In my mind, the only way to make a mandatory program work is enforcement -- otherwise it becomes a voluntary program. I think we need to have someone responding to complaints about water usage and looking for violations."

Councilor Bryan Siverson asked if the town could have volunteer police officers be assigned that task.

"All I want is to see it enforced," Wolfe said. "Who does it is immaterial -- I just want to see it done."

The council agreed to leave the designated money in the budget and return to the issue at a later date.

Non-Profits

Murphy strongly urged the council to reconsider the funding recommendations made by the ad hoc committee on non-profits for the Senior Center and the Rim Country Literacy Program.

After a four-hour special meeting on non-profit organizations which Murphy missed, councilors that were present gave Smith a list of what they believed each organization should get.

At a subsequent council meeting, Murphy asked that a committee be formed to consider the requests as well as the suggestions from each councilor. Councilors Judy Buettner, Dick Reese and Robert Henley became the ad hoc committee.

The committee met and came up with recommendations based mostly on averaging the dollar amounts suggested by each councilor.

The Senior Center had requested $50,000. Suggested funding ranged from $0 to $50,000. The committee decided on $30,000.

The RCLP requested $10,000 and the committee recommended $7,500.

"I'd like to see the funding for the senior center meet their request -- and the RCLP," Murphy said. "It's not a huge amount to fund and to me, a pretty great need for this community. The RCLP is a huge value to people's lives."

"I did serve on the committee," Henley said. "My concern is the straw tally that we initially did. In some cases, we totally ignored the fact that there were four people who did not want to fund a particular thing and we went ahead and gave it some money."

"I thought we discussed it and I thought we approved the committee's recommendations," Wolfe said. "Are we going to revisit all this?"

"The committee made a recommendation," Murphy argued. "That's all the committee was going to do."

Smith and Carpenter told the council that they would have the ability to be flexible about the non-profits.

"If there was a particular organization that had a plan that we did not like, we could move that money to another one," Henley said. "With that being said, I have to admit personally that I don't agree with all of this, but I also know that we've done a lot of work to get to this point. Mayor, I agree with you about the RCLP, but I don't know if we have a consensus to start mucking with these numbers."

Henley moved that the council accept the dollar amounts that came from the subcommittee. Reese seconded.

Murphy continued to insist that the council reconsider the senior center's request of $50,000.

"We spent quite a bit of time discussing this in committee," Henley said. "I'd like to see the senior center work out their problems and try to resolve them through their own efforts. We gave them $7,900 last year and $30,000 this year."

In the end, the council approved the recommendations of the committee, with Murphy as the one dissenting vote.

Recycling

Councilor Barbara Brewer suggested putting funds for recycling back into the budget.

Carpenter said that Smith had found a way to keep the program going for another year while the council could study it's effectiveness.

"There is about $140,000 in the Capital Projects Fund that is not allocated right now," Smith said. "I am suggesting that as an interim basis that I take $26,000 of this instead of impacting the general fund."

The council approved the use of monies from the Capital Projects Fund to continue the recycling program for another year.

Streets

A discussion of the street department funding began with a comment from Henley.

"I feel very strongly that we need to be spending more money in our streets area," Henley said. "We've certainly had a reduction in some of our funding from the Highway Users Revenue Fund (HURF) this fiscal year and I'd just like to see us do something that is over and above what we've done in previous years."

Henley mentioned the deteriorating condition of Saddle Lane as one of the streets that needs work and is not part of the 12 street projects included in the public works bond initiative.

"We have not put nearly enough in our street maintenance program," Murphy said. "These roads were built 20 years ago and they are not going to last forever."

Henley moved that an additional $50,000 be put in the streets budget.

"I want to give (Town Engineer) LaRon Garrett the money and he can figure out where to spend it -- that's what he's paid for," Henley said.

Reese requested to put the decision off until the vacationing Garrett could be available to answer questions. His hesitance surprised those who had heard Reese complain to Garrett during an April council meeting about the abundance of potholes in the roads.

"Let me put it this way," Murphy said. "We could put a million dollars into that department because there are a lot of streets that need work. (Henley) simply wants to add $50,000 to a poorly, inadequately funded program-- everybody in council should know that the pavement preservation program is underfunded."

The council unanimously approved giving the street department an addition $50,000.

The council will be asked to approve a tentative budget July 10.

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