Thursday, July 21, 2005

CITY COUNCIL: Bond ordinance passes 4-3 on first reading

A $16.5 million bond ordinance won preliminary approval Monday (July 18, 2005) only after residents and council members voiced concern over its size.

The bond ordinance includes funding for a new senior center, roads, technology improvements in municipal buildings and roof repairs at police, fire and administrative buildings. The City Council will hold a public hearing before a final vote at a special meeting 8 p.m. August 8 at City Hall Library.

Councilman Cory Storch
strongly supported passage of the ordinance, saying the city had deferred maintenance of roads and buildings too long.

Several of the items had been authorized in previous bond ordinances, but funding was never carried out, Finance Director Ron West said.

But numerous speakers said the bond ordinance was too big and its repayment would burden generations to come.

“My concern is with the amount of money,“ former Councilman Malcolm Dunn said, calling it “a tremendous long-term burden.”

Dunn asked whether the repayment plan would adhere to guidelines that former interim Finance Director Robert Casey recommended for debt management. Officials assured Dunn that the debt service would not exceed Casey‘s $5 million annual limit.

Former Mayor Rick Taylor was more outspoken, calling the ordinance “a cavalier plan to bankrupt the city.”

Resident Dottie Gutenkauf read a long list of items included in the bond ordinance and said, “It looks to me like the city is going to pay off $5 million forever.“

Even though City Administrator Norton Bonaparte said it was a “very common practice“ for cities to take on debt for long-term items, Councilmen Ray Blanco and Don Davis also objected and tried to have the ordinance tabled. That vote failed, with Blanco, Davis and City Council President Linda Carter voting “yes“ and council members Rashid Burney, Rayland Van Blake, Joanne Hollis and Storch voting “no.“ Then with only Blanco, Davis and Carter opposing, the measure passed on first reading.

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: city council, ordinance, budget