Utility truck draws council interest
A new bucket truck for the utility department sparked another debate among the Baldwin City Council members at Monday's meeting.
The $143,569 truck, which is used to take electrical lineman high into the air to fix wires, trim trees and other duties, would replace a truck that was bought used in 1990. The item has been a part of budget talks for years, but made it through this year.
But, Council Member Ken Wagner jumpstarted the discussion by posing the question if the city could afford it. He outlined fears that the economy, especially the housing market, might cause tax dollars to go down.
"I am somewhat concerned about our ability to pay for this thing," said Wagner.
That brought several answers.
"It's become a safety issue," said Council President Amy Cleavinger. "We've been talking about doing this for years. It's time to do it."
City Administrator Jeff Dingman also assured Wagner that the money for the purchase had been budgeted for and wouldn't be adversely affected by loss of property tax, if that occurred. He said money was also available through the electrical fund.
Still, Wagner wasn't convinced.
"Our debt service in the utility is what's getting us," he said.
Dingman said this purchase won't be debt. Mayor Gary Walbridge also gave some history on the present truck.
"In 1990 when we bought it, it was the first step we took to improve the electric department," said Walbridge.
The council also heard a report from Jay Randels representing the Baldwin City Economic Development Committee. The group has come up with a plan for Business Beautification Grants, which will match up to $1,000 on projects businesses might need help with that meet certain guidelines.
"With all the streetscape work going on, we put our heads together about other ways to spruce up downtown," said Randels. "I just wanted to make you aware of what we're doing and entice the city to participate in the incentives."
He said the development committee has earmarked $3,000 for the grants and the Baldwin City Chamber of Commerce has given $1,000, but that more money is needed.
"We're always looking for help," he said.
The council responded favorably, but stopped short of giving money.
"I think it's a great program and I applaud your group and the chamber's efforts," said Wagner. "I am concerned that we're spending this kind of money downtown and nothing is being done with retail.
"I think as one voice on the council that we should participate in this on down the road when you have a handle on how many requests you get," he said.
The council then heard a report on a retail market analysis that will be done by Richard Caplan and Associates after the council unanimously approved it.