No decision on three big BE city cuts
The Blue Earth City Council wrangled with three big items which could help to trim the current budget, but couldn’t make a decision on any of them, postponing any vote to a special meeting this Monday.
One item involved bonding to pay for a number of city equipment purchases. The other two had to do with replacing a city worker and a police officer.
City Administrator Kathy Bailey presented a list of equipment that ranged from a new street sweeper and sewer vac to a pool cover. In all it totalled $308,000.
“These are items which are on our capital improvement budget list,” Bailey said. There were a couple of new items which had been recently added.
Bailey also proposed that the city set bonds in order to pay for the items, spreading out the payment for seven to 10 years.
“We would have no payment in 2009, and a payment of $28,000-$38,000 in 2010,” she said. “This would trim $209,000 from this year’s budget.”
Mayor Rob Hammond said he was not prepared to act on the measure at this time and said it should be tabled.
“I’m worried about raising taxes to cover this,” he said. “We don’t know how much the budget will have to be cut next year, or what the taxes are going to have to be.”
The recent resignation of both a city street worker and a police officer brought a discussion of when – or if – the position should be replaced.
Councilman John Huisman was in favor of waiting until fall, and filling in with part time or seasonal people .
“We will know what our state cuts are going to be at that time,” Huisman said. “Then we can decide to hire someone or not.”
Councilman Dick Maher disagreed, saying the city needs these personnel to continue services.
“We are already down one person in the street department, and this will mean two spots not filled,” he said. “We need people to run the city – now.”
The council also discussed not filling the police officer position until they learn whether the city will receive a COPS grant which will pay for an officer for three years. That decision could take several months.
Police Chief Dean Vereide spoke to the council and said he was concerned about the council’s attitude towards the police department.
“I feel uncomfortable that public safety is so low down on your city budget and is always cut first,” he said. “We were already cut 20-percent and are running at bare bones now.”
Vereide said he has to hire part time officers already to cover the city on a 24-hour basis.
Maher said it would take two months to get an officer hired so they should start now – and it will cost the city extra overtime in the meantime.
Decisions on what to do about hiring to fill the positions were also postponed until a special meeting on Monday night.