Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mayor Bozarth proposes spending accumulated city funds on several improvements

By Julia Myers and Nini Edwards
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

In a budget workshop Monday, Mayor Tom Bozarth presented to the city council his plans to spend some of the money the city has been accumulating. 

Bozarth wants to put the money toward community improvement projects – particularly making repairs to the wall on Gratz Street, left.  The project, according to his draft budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, will cost around $75,000.

“Each year we put a lot of time and thought into the budget, and we’ve tried to include projects to improve and provide better services for the city of Midway,” Bozarth told the council at the start of the workshop, noting this is his sixth budget he has proposed as mayor. He previously served on the council.

Other projects on the list include sidewalk repairs and removal of hazardous trees.  A $20,000 handicapped ramp on Main Street is also expected to be completed this year, but the project will be funded by the R.J. Corman Railroad.

In the street department of the budget, Bozarth plans to spend almost $14,000 widening Starks Alley and Dudley Street, and adding parking on West Main Street.

After reminding council members that the drafted budget was just a proposal, Bozarth reviewed each line item of the city’s income and expenses, highlighting the areas that he wants to increase or decreasd significantly.

There would be an $11,000 increase in the professional and technical area of the budget, due in part to contracting with HMB, an engineering firm, an auditor to replace the one who will be leaving, and fees to a consultant who helps identify businesses operating in Midway vendors without a city license.

The fire department would get more money for equipment.  Bozarth would grant its request for $5,000 for a thermal imaging camera.  Also on the list a rescue saw kit, six traffic-control flashlights and a gas-leak detector, which the mayor said is needed because of the large gas station that will be built at the Interstate 64 interchange.

“We’ve tried our best to get the fire department everything they need,” Bozarth said of the volunteers.  “Over the past six years, we’ve really upgraded the fire department.”

The cemetery would get more money for maintenance.  The house on the property needs $15,000 in repairs because the cemetery caretaker left it in poor condition, Bozarth said.   

Salaries in all departments except city hall would decrease .  City Clerk Phyllis Hudsonsaid salaries are down due to most overtime costs being eliminated from the budget, as well as retiring employees being replaced with a younger group earning lower salaries.  

From left: Dan Roller, Bruce Southworth, Aaron Hamilton (Julia Myers photo)
New Council Member Bruce Southworth said he would like overtime listed as a line item in the budget, and also wanted employees’ salary ranges listed. Council Member Sharon Turner said the council should only be concerned with staying in the budget, “and if you go over the line you have to give back.”

As the discussion grew more animated, Bozarth smiled and asked Southworth if this was “the way they do it in Versailles,” referring to the new member’s previous position as director of public works in Versailles. He said Southworth could get a salary list from Hudson.

“I think there needs to be more transparency here,” Southworth said in an interview following the meeting.  “I want to come in here and be able to pick up the budget, and see what’s going on.”

Another area of the budget creating lots of discussion among council members was the issue of donations to chairtable causes.  Bozarth listed two requests, $2,000 from the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce and $500 for Repair Affair, a Rotary Club project in which volunteers fix up homes of elderly, disabled and poor people.

Council Member Dan Roller recommended that they create a way for non-profit organizations to ask for donations.  “My desire is that we have a policy in place for donation requests,” said Roller.

But Roller indicated that he wasn’t incluned to favor such requests. “I don’t see how we can take taxes and them give them away,” he said. “I think the best way for council members to help out non-profit is to get out their checkbooks and write a check.”

Bozarth said, “We don’t need to make a decision today. We can get a policy in place the next few months.”

Bozarth passed out a state attorney general’s opinion saying that a city can make donations, but they must be for a public purpose. He said those receiving donations should be party to an agreement “spelling out what they are going to do with the money.”

The chamber’s requested $2,000 “would go straight to the payroll,” Council Member Sharon Turner said.  Council Member Grayson Vandegrift said, “I hate to say this, but I think that $2,000 is going to a huge hole [the Chamber of Commerce] is trying to fill.” He added, “This is one particular donation that is not a good idea.”

Vandegrift heads a committee that has decided not to pursue the idea of a separate chamber for Midway, but is interested in a city tourism commission that would be separate from the county’s. Most of the commission’s limited funds are given to the chamber for tourist promotion, and Midway interests feel they are often slighted in chamber promotions.

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