Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Council president wants “fiscally fit” city

The cost of a proposed senior citizens’ center went from $2.75 million to $4.3 million in just a couple of years. Money allocated for road projects is not covering the costs.

City Council President Linda Carter wants to know why.

Carter is calling for a line-item review of all costs associated with the senior center and on Aug. 29 wants a complete explanation of the status of $8 million in road projects.

“We are at a crucial point,” Carter said Monday (Aug. 15, 2005) as the council gave preliminary approval for more than $14 million in bond ordinances to fund the center, the roadwork and other long-delayed projects.

Carter said the council needs information so the governing body can be sure it is making “fiscally fit” decisions.

Five of the seven council members must agree on Sept. 6 to give final approval to the bond ordinances or they will fail.

The road projects represent just a fraction of work needed after what Mayor Albert T. McWilliams called 20 years of neglect. McWilliams put the tab at $75 million over 15 years.

The poorest roads require total reconstruction, while others can be milled and resurfaced. The council did spare a $404,000 request from Public Works to buy equipment so city workers can keep roads in better repair.

Some of the bonding is for road work already done or in progress. Carter said the council needs to know exactly how much more work can be done with the remaining funds.

Resident Robert Wilson echoed Carter’s call for fiscal prudence.

“I sit in the council meetings and I get really floored,“ he said.

Wilson recalled how the city used a one-time windfall - $8 million in proceeds from the sale of its sewer system - for tax relief over several years, “which automatically raised taxes,” he said. He pointed out that police laid off last year now have to be replaced. Construction costs per square foot are escalating and will nearly double soon, he predicted.

“We are penny-wise and pound-foolish,“ Wilson said.

--Bernice Paglia

--Drawing of Senior Citizen's Center provided by City Finance Director Ron West

KEYWORDS: budget