Murray presented a budget calling for $995,267 after a correction was made, and urged Council to bring the budget forward at the next regular meeting May 10, specifically because of some projects she feels need immediate attention.
That prompted heated discussions between Murray and City Council.
“I would prefer to take the opportunity to go through it and review it, and maybe come back at the next conference meeting and delve into it a little deeper,” Fifth Ward Councilman John Haas said.
“Here is my concern about moving this to another conference,” Murray said. “In years past, including last year, it was brought forward on Council agenda, given three readings and passed. And at this point, we’re at May. The bulk of our work in these areas is done in the summer, particularly we have the parks and the (McKinley) pool, and we have the Neighborhood Stabilization work. We have crews out right now in makeshift operations trying to mow and board houses and clean up …”
Murray said if the budget consideration was moved to another conference session, that would move the discussion to May 10, moving the first reading to May 24.
“We have Memorial Day weekend coming up at the end of May, as do we have the opening up of the McKinley Pool. We need to have that pool scraped and painted. We need to have people trained and in place to work there,” Murray said. “We need to have the materials purchased for the Health Department. I was hoping that we could, at least, bring some things forward that could be dealt with expeditiously while other things were being more deliberately discussed.”
Haas objected to breaking the budget down for discussion because it is his understanding that it is always presented as a single ordinance.
“This is another situation where we find ourselves in April, and now it’s Council that is being asked to expedite it,” Haas said. “We’ve been here for four months and we never saw a CIP budget until I had it delivered to my house on Saturday. I don’t know what else I can say to express my frustration with trying to deal with the situation, other than saying what I just said. I don’t feel like I should be strong-armed and pushed into okaying something without looking at it due to someone else’s dilatory inaction.”
Murray asked Council President David Malone if the members of Council could go over the budget right then and ask the department directors present any questions they might have. Murray said the reason Council had not had the CIP budget sooner was that they were working on the city’s budget.
Haas commented the two are not tied together, and Murray disagreed.
Murray then addressed the public with her reasoning.
“If Council chooses not to adopt some of these measures soon, then Council is going to have to answer to the public as to why their pool is not open on Memorial Day weekend because the public has seen that I have a plan to do that,” Murray said. “And, also, why the parks and Spartan Stadium, Mr. (Service Director Bill) Beaumont has been working with groups who want to rent the stadium for use this summer. We’re trying to make sure all the systems are up to code, and that we’ve started replacing some of the bad situations in the bathrooms and so forth. If we’re not able to provide these basic services to our citizens, and we’re not able to move ahead with street resurfacing, then we shouldn’t be in business.”
At one point Third Ward Councilman Nick Basham moved to accept Council’s option not to move on the item.
“I would like to make a comment more or less to the public, I think our theme this year has been keep Council in the dark as long as possible and then spring something on us and force us to make a rash decision at the last minute,” Basham said. “That really irritates me when I’m trying to make an informed decision on behalf of my voters. I would like more time to go through it, and I recommend alternative number three — we take no action at this time.”
However, he withdrew the motion because the format of the budget did not include the alternatives usually offered to City Council.
Sixth Ward Councilman Rich Noel then moved to adopt alternative number one, to bring it forward for consideration at the next regular meeting.
Fourth Ward Councilman Jerrold Albrecht was absent from the meeting, and First Ward Councilman Kevin Johnson had already left the meeting because of a previous commitment. Noel was not able to get his motion passed, so Malone said the budget would be brought back at the next conference session after Council has had time to study the budget.
Afterwards, Portsmouth City Health Commissioner Peggy Burton said she was frustrated because she would have to answer questions as to why the pool might not open on time, and why some grass- cutting jobs wouldn’t get done because she needs equipment financed through the CIP.
In the regular session of City Council, two ordinances were passed — one increasing the water tap installation fees and another donating a 1979 pumper truck to the Rubyville Volunteer Fire Department.
Representatives from several area restaurants were on hand to urge Council not to change traffic light patterns that affect their establishments.
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232.