The council members held their regular work session on Monday and discussed the $13.3 million proposal. A city accountant informed them the previous changes made left the budget with a $2,800 deficit.
She said the initial surplus of $2,700 reported on Friday came from an error in one of the cuts to city appropriations requested. In the proposal, all of them were reduced 3 percent from their funding levels a year ago.
The council asked that the appropriation funding be rounded down to even dollar amounts, instead of only an exact percentage change, to reduce the deficit.
A final agreement on a $10,000 appropriation to Sylacauga Ambulance remained in question, pending further information. Councilman Walter Jacobson asked if there could be a legal issue in the city providing money to a for-profit business that it was not contractually obligated to.
Police Chief Louis Zook clarified the company entered into an agreement with Talladega County E911 to be the exclusive provider of ambulance services in the south part of the county. That agreement went into effect in August.
Councilman Doug Murphree said he had discussions with company management and was told the money would ensure ambulances are on-site for local sporting events.
“According to them, they would provide an ambulance for every home football game,” Murphree said. “They would provide ambulances for Little League if we have tournaments and also any time we get a call for a structure fire in Sylacauga.”
Murphree and Council President Jim Heigl both said they would like to see what additional services would be guaranteed by the company in writing. Mayor Sam Wright said he would speak with the city’s attorney Tuesday to get answers on any legal questions.
The city previously contracted with Sylacauga Ambulance through the hospital to provide local services before the agreement with E911. Wright’s previous budget proposal did not have the appropriation included.
In other business, the council agreed to postpone voting on an amendment to an ordinance that would give the city more authority in Merkel Field Municipal Airport business.
The council agreed to set a meeting with the airport board of directors, to discuss the city’s expectations. Council members said they had already spoken with board president Tommy Dobson about the possible ordinance change.
“I told him the only way I would keep the (board’s authority) intact was if we sat down, defined what we expected and had some measures in place where we could hold them accountable,” Jacobson said.
The new ordinance would make the city, instead of the airport board, the “principal contact” for all agencies regarding the development and improvement of the airport. Presently, the board also has the authority to select service providers for the airport, hire personnel, and carry out tasks relating to engineering, planning, surveying and contract work.
However, the current ordinance stated all of those things had to be approved by the council.
Issues arose after an audit of federal money the city received, much of which went to the airport from FAA grants. The auditors reported to city officials that they did not initially receive the proper documentation for work done at the airport, although everything was eventually found in compliance.
Councilman Ken Horn did not attend the work session because he was recovering after a hospital stay, according to Heigl. The council’s regular meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Contact Matt Quillen at email@example.com.