Tuesday, August 16, 2005

CITY COUNCIL: Doin' the numbers - how many ordinances, how much money?

In a confusing City Council meeting Monday (Aug. 15, 2005) bond requests morphed from four ordinances to cover road work, a senior center, and various city needs to a series of votes that approved the senior center and road work, but left other needs hanging.

The preliminary votes concerned the unbundling of a single $16.5 million ordinance that would have covered costs of a new senior center as well as a big program of delayed roadwork and a number of other city needs, such as technology upgrades and requirements to meet state Department of Environmental Protection rules.

Objectors said the omnibus ordinance would have allowed the city administration to switch allocations around once the measure was passed.

One ordinance Monday clearly covered the $4.3 million cost of the senior center and was easily approved on first reading.

Another, that would cover $1 million in roadwork, won approval as well.

Then there was another $7 million for road projects that the City Council approved, but with caveats that the council will seek oversight into the selection of road projects and their fiscal management.

The measures that won initial approval Monday will be up for public hearing and final passage on Sept. 6.

The sticking point was the last ordinance, which was a catch-all for projects including technology improvements for $1,225,000, mandated state Department of Environmental Protection requirements for $175,000, improvements to City Hall at $401,500, Fire Division improvements at $150,000, Police Division improvements at $170,000 and traffic light refurbishments at $100,000.

The council agreed to pay $1 million for roof repairs , $404,000 for equipment to fix streets and $542,000 for pools and recreation improvements.

The result of the votes seemed to hinge on compromises between the three City Council members present Monday (Cory Storch, President Linda Carter and Rashid Burney) and Councilman Ray Blanco, who last week insisted he would not support the all-encompassing $16.5 million ordinance.

Council members Joanne Hollis, Rayland Van Blake and Don Davis were absent.

On Monday, Blanco questioned how the new proposed ordinances were developed and only gave his support once the catch-all ordinance was split up.

The council gave no indication of how the deleted items would be paid for. City Administrator Norton Bonaparte asked the council to reconsider the mandated DEP costs but his request was not honored.

The ordinances will be for public hearing and final passages on Sept. 6.

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: City council, bond ordinances