Archive for Thursday, May 21, 2009

City council discusses spending habits

May 21, 2009

With an apparent full slate of members in place, the Baldwin City Council found itself debating whether $15,500 should be spent on Parks and Trails City-wide Master Plan at Monday night’s meeting.

Mayor Ken Wagner had appointed political newcomer Robin Bayer to finish Wagner’s two-year term on the council. The appointment initially appeared to be approved, but has since been questioned. (See related story.)

However, Bayer was sworn into office by City Clerk Darcy Higgins and the council went on to the regular agenda. That’s where the debate started on the trail study, which will encompass all recreational needs for the city, including what to do with the 63-acre tract of land the city purchased from the Kapelle family for recreational use.

“We spend a lot of money on studies,” said Council Member Ted Brecheisen, Jr. “I wonder if this is the best time to be spending $15,500 on a study — $15,000 is a half-mill in taxes.

“That money could be saved. It looks like to me at this time this is something extra,” said Brecheisen, adding that it isn’t a health or services issue, such as a study being done on the city’s water system.

Wagner said it was necessary for possible grants and stimulus money the city could gain.

“What I’ve found in the last two months, if we don’t have a master plan in place we can’t get this grant money,” he said.

City Administrator Jeff Dingman said the trail study was an add-on.

“We have a master plan in place, this is something specific,” said Dingman.

Wagner then mentioned the possibility of sales-tax money that is currently going to pay off the municipal swimming pool being used for quality of life projects. The pool may be paid off five years early through the sales-tax money. He said a special election would have to be held to continue the sales tax.

“If we can continue the half-cent sales tax, it will mean $120,000,” said Wagner. “The way I look at it, it takes some pressure off the mill levy. We’ve attracted enough sales tax to pay the pool off five years early.”

Brecheisen still wasn’t swayed and was joined by Council Member Tom Farmer.

“We’re going to have to cut somewhere,” said Brecheisen, citing the predictions by the county appraiser that property valuations would continue to be low, raising fewer tax dollars without a mill-levy increase. “I’d like to wait a year to see if our valuations come back up.

“The county appraiser office thinks they will be down 5 percent,” he said. “I’m just concerned about spending money on non-health-related items.”

“I agree with his points,” said Farmer. “We’re not out of the woods with the economy by any means.”

Other council members were in favor of the study and it was approved 3-2.

“We’re wasting potential funding opportunities,” said Council Member Mike Magers.

The council also gave tentative approval for a city liquor license for JBC Liquors. The approval is dependent on the store receiving its state liquor license.

“All they need to do is show us their state liquor license and they’re good to go,” said Dingman.

Comments

NanCrisp 4 years, 11 months ago

Wagner said it was necessary for possible grants and stimulus money the city could gain.

“What I’ve found in the last two months, if we don’t have a master plan in place we can’t get this grant money,” he said.

City Administrator Jeff Dingman said the trail study was an add-on.

“We have a master plan in place, this is something specific,” said Dingman.

Premise: Grant money is good. Fact: a master plan is a necessary component of competing for grant money. Conclusion: We need a master plan.

Where does the trail study enter this argument? Dingman, as quoted, seems to be saying that the trail study has nothing to do with the master plan and that there already is a master plan without this $15,000 expenditure. Therefore, the trail study is not a necessary component to apply for the alleged grants and the attempt to confuse the two issues is (not so) cleverly designed to make council members and others believe the trail study is going to help B.C. obtain grant money.

Do we not have enough resources available to figure out a master plan for recreation without having to bring in consultants to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars? With a City Manager who should be a professional at grant writing, a city council that should be attuned to what the public wants, and a Recreation Commission that includes both paid city staff and community volunteers, one would think we could put together whatever is necessary to apply for grants. There are volunteer organizations everywhere successfully obtaining grants with no paid staff at all – and definitely without high-priced consulting firms.

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