Two-and-a-half hours were spent on two items on the agenda — an ordinance approving the 2010 Capital Outlay Budget and an ordinance approving the 2010 Income Tax Budget and appropriating funds for the same from the Capital Improvement Fund number 301 and fund 801. After several amendments were defeated, and others passed, the Capital Outlay Budget ordinance passed 4 to 2.
Fifth Ward Councilman John Haas had proposed amendments to the 2010 Capital Outlay Budget, including reducing the Street Maintenance Capital Outlay Fund Number 233 from $36,000 to zero; Flood Defense Capital Outlay Fund Number 265 from $755,000 to zero; to remove a loadpacker truck, valued at $180,000 from the Sanitation Fund Capital Outlay Fund Number 631, bringing the proposed total down from $329,000 to $149,000; and the removal of a 4-wheel drive truck for $30,000 from the Cemetery Fund Capital Outlay Fund Number 851. Haas also asked that the alarm system upgrade at $10,000, the 720 John Deere Mowers at $16,000 and the night vision cameras at $10,000 be taken out of the fund.
“Mr. Haas are you suggesting you want to replace it with the language you were given tonight?” Portsmouth Mayor Jane Murray asked.
“No, I made my own amendment,” Haas responded.
Murray was referring to the summary of amendments to the 2010 Capital Outlay Budget that had been given to Council at the start of the meeting.
First Ward City Councilman Kevin Johnson asked Haas for an explanation of his reasoning on asking for the amendments.
“Quite frankly the changes are designed, in effect, to spend money only on things that are absolutely necessary,” Haas said. “I went through it and cut out things that can be put off until a later date.”
Haas said his fear was that the city would go into 2011 and have no CIP (Capital Improvements) money to work with in case the city would have another deficit situation like it did in 2010.
“My concern is if an income tax increase does not pass, not only will we not have enough money next year to meet the budget, but we won’t have a fund to use to help offset any shortfall,” Haas said.
“It’s a total surprise, and what has been recommended is a crippling of government and crippling of services to the public,” Murray said. “The government doesn’t exist just to operate itself. The Government exists in part by providing needed services to the public. Without the items, the departments would be crippled. I am also asking, do you suggest that we not comply with the FEMA requirements for certifying our levees, because you zeroed that out.”
Haas explained his view that the FEMA issue can be handled by a separate ordinance. He said he struck things that he considered non-emergency needs.
“You don’t have a measure of what an emergency need might be, because that’s not your job,” Murray said to Haas. “You’re a member of Council. You are not a member of the administration.”
“Madam Mayor do I need to remind you that Council writes the checks?” Haas responded.
Murray elaborated on her views concerning the different roles by each of the bodies.
“All we have had since I took office is an attempt to somehow micro-manage this government, and that is not your job,” Murray said.
Another issue came up concerning the request for a $55,000 lawn mower, prompting Third Ward Councilman Nick Basham to bring up some research he had done, calling officials in the city of Ironton, who had recently bought lawn mowers with air conditioned cabs for $26,000.
“If I can find this information out with a simple phone call, why can’t anyone else?” Basham said. “A simple phone call — you could have found this out.”
“Mr. President it’s not my job to make phone calls to other cities,” Murray responded. “It’s my job to ask my directors to provide information.”
The vote on the amendments came out 3 to 3, which essentially meant the amendment failed.
Haas then suggested he would adjust his amendment to put the mower back in at $30,000, and the ordinance was amended by a 4 to 2 vote.
The ordinance passed by the same margin.
Basham then suggested several amendments to the ordinance concerning the Funds 301 and 801, calling for removing the $5,000 sound system from the legislative section, taking out the furniture at $900, carpet and window coverings at $2,860 and $3,500 for repair and paint in the Mayor’s office.
He asked for the deletion of $50,000 for historic preservation in the finance section, $1,000 in computers, $50,000 in special projects in engineering, and a $37,432 truck for the public health section. Under section 2 titled “amenities,” Basham suggested removing $6,000 for shade trees and $15,000 for cleaning and beautification projects, and asked that $10,000 for the Rose Street Park and $10,000 for Spartan Stadium and Branch Rickey Park be taken out.
During the discussion Basham said, “If we spend the entire CIP and something breaks, we can’t bond for it.”
That was a reference to an ordinance passed by voters last year that limits bonding to $100,000 without going to the voters for approval.
“We have a sinking ship for a city,” Murray said. “And you take out a vehicle from the health department’s crew, that is doing more to improve our city right now than about anyone,” Murray said. “That crew is out mowing weeds and boarding houses, and they borrow and borrow from Mr. (Bill) Beaumont’s department (Service Department), and every vehicle has broken down because it is not equipped to handle what they need. They pick up tons of trash and debris from alleys.”
Murray made a reference to dealing with “slum tenants and slum landlords.”
“Our city is broken and this is not going to fix it,” Murray said. “We cannot cripple our departments in this manner. You cannot decide summarily that you know what is right, just because you don’t like me — you don’t like my administration. Why didn’t you run for Mayor?” (referring to Basham).
Basham twice made it clear that he had no interest in being mayor.
Basham’s amendment failed, but an amendment by Fourth Ward Councilman Jerrold Albrecht, that restored several of the items Basham had asked to be removed, did pass 5 to 1, and the amendment eventually passed 5 to 1.
Council also passed an ordinance authorizing the Mayor to submit an application for the 2010 Ohio Small Cities Community Development Block Grant, an ordinance approving the 2010 Enterprise Funds Capital Budget, accepted charitable contributions from the Portsmouth Eagles to the Police and Fire departments, adopted a resolution to disestablish the city’s Finance Committee, Cable Television Commission and the Library Board, passed an ordinance authorizing the Mayor to submit application for the fiscal year 2010 Ohio Small Cities Community Development Block Grant, adopted a resolution to endorse the Community Action Organization’s proposal to provide additional dental care to those residents who do not have access to regular dental care, and gave first reading to a resolution providing for the annual tax budget for municipal purposes for the year 2011. Council also gave first reading to an ordinance authorizing the Mayor to enter into a contract with Howerton Engineering to assist the city with certification of its flood protection system.
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101 Ext. 232 or firstname.lastname@example.org