Expenditures to support city infrastructure and departments was a recurring topic at the Clinton City Council meeting Thursday, May 11.
The biggest moment of that meeting was the council voting unanimously to support Water and Sewer Department expenditures of $300,000 both to improve and support existing systems. Department head Dickie Hink presented to the board a request for expenditures to repair the sewer lines under the Thriftway parking lot, and to fix water lines in the Honey Hills area.
Hink, echoing an assertion at the previous month's meeting that the department had a duty to act in accordance with its Master Plan - funded in the 2016 budget - in order to address problems in the water and sewer system. Hink presented that the money to initiate these two projects was in place in the form of CDs held by the city, those in turn funded by tax revenues which had been earmarked for water and sewer system maintenance and improvements.
The matter was not cut and dry. Council members questioned Hink on the timeline for the improvements, then some further discussion was required to determine the mechanics of transferring the money. The work would be done, except for some work requiring contracted services, by department employees, Hink told the body.
“We have to do something tonight,” Councilman Jeff Pistole said, prompting the body to work through the technical details of fund transfer.
Councilman Tim Barnes made the motion to approve the expenditure, with Councilman Jason Lynch giving his second.
Barnes, in speaking in favor of the outlay from the earmarked funds, said, “We're talking about getting things down in the community that aren't going to cost us a dime because we've already paid for it!”
An air of excitement briefly followed the passage of the expenditure, with Hink stating to the council: “Council, you have just passed a milestone in my opinion.”
While the water and sewer was a big topic, it was not the only funding issue in front of the council that night. Parks Department head Charles Wilson presented that a mower used to maintain the ball fields needed to be replaced, detailing how repairs on the machine had cost roughly $1,000 a month recently. He had found a mower at a Davis Cash Lumber to replace it, but required a $4,000 authorization from the council in order to purchase the machine.
The matter was tabled at the meeting until the council was able to find a means of funding the mower purchase from within the city budget. As this issue went to press Wednesday, May 16, a special session for the council had been called where it was anticipated funding would be approved.
“We didn't know which fund would fund the purchase,” Clinton Mayor Richard McCormac said, but we found the money in a couple of funds,” he said, announcing the special session.
The Fire Department also called for funding, as Clinton Fire Chief D.L. Webb presented to the council. Webb said the fire dues had not been collected by the department for over two years, and with that funding for the department was suffering.
The council was obviously in favor of the department collecting fire dues, but at debate was how to go about collecting dues. One option was for the fire department to bill the water department at regular intervals for funds, or to have a ordinance which would, if passed, have residents pay a fee directly to the department.
At a previous meeting the council had set aside money for the department to have a special election for fire dues.
At issue is the lack of funding could impact the department's rating, currently a Class 4, which would lead to higher insurance rates in the city. The rating would fall if equipment was not able to be maintained in such a manner as to retain the Class 4 rating, Webb told the council.
Further to the debate was the decision between billing the water department or a special election. Councilman Barnes pointed out some concern about what he called “outside interests” who would interfere with any effort to gather fire dues as a form of taxation.
The opposite of this was billing the water department, which, while it would not require an ordinance, could be seen as a under-the-table manner of forcing people to pay dues.
“I'm worried about the public reaction,” Councilman Pistole said.
The council agreed that the next step in the process was for Webb to come up with figures as to exactly what the department needs as revenue - if to no other end but to maintain its Class 4 rating.
“I'll entertain anything by next meeting,” McCormac said.
In other council matters:An ordinance was passed for a voluntary $25 fee to register new businesses in the city. Once registered a business would be on the city's web directory. Daryll Allen and Matt Stewart were named to the still-forming Water Board. Two more names are required. Robert Smith was named to the Advertising and Promotions Commision. The police department recently received a grant, used to fund two new vests for officers. Chief Webb reminded all that burning household trash in the city was against the law. Zoning Head Tim Clark said the council could expect to hear more about fines against those not mowing their grass.