Council approves resolutions to cut debt, undo freeze of step raises and more
by Chris Norwood
Apr 16, 2013 | 2348 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TALLADEGA — During a presentation Monday night on the city’s unqualified audit for the most recent fiscal year, the auditor told the City Council that he generally recommends that a city hold on to enough reserve cash to handle nine days expenses in the event of an emergency. Due to budget cuts and efficiencies instituted during the budget for fiscal 2010, the city now has enough to cash to run for 135 days with no new income.

As a result, City Manager Brian Muenger presented, and the council unanimously approved, a series of fund balance reduction resolutions that will pay down existing debt, provide matching funds for state projects and further the renovation of Veterans Park, among other things.

The first resolution would undo the freeze in step raises for employees who worked for the city full-time in 2010, when they were frozen. The 1.2 percent step raises go into effect May 1, and are not retroactive. The annual cost will be about $75,000 per year for city and water department employees.

The second resolution would pay off $98,000 from the 2001 Honda Improvement Bond and a $269,310 bond issue for a fire truck. The latter payoff alone would save the city $17,000 per year and keep annual debt service payments at a level still attractive to ratings agencies.

The third resolution would transfer $400,000 from the general fund and add it to $700,000 in the Oil and Gas Trust Fund, to allow for a $1.1 million paving project this year.

Resolution number four involves transferring $300,000 per year from the general fund toward funding post employment benefits for retired employees. Up to now, the city has handled these obligations on a “pay as you go” basis, creating nearly $3.4 million in accrued liability to date. According to the auditors, this is not sustainable.

The largest project on the list was further renovation of Veterans Park.

The initial engineering fee on the project would be $55,000, with the overall cost estimated at $669,000. This would include reshaping a drainage channel, new lights with underground lines, new pedestrian bridges, a new culvert on Spring Street and a new, gravel parking lot.

The last resolution on the agenda would make vacation schedules for city employees more compatible with the policies in surrounding cities. Employees with 10 years of service would get 15 vacation days per year, and those with 20 or more years would get 20 days per year.

A seventh item was added on to the agenda, moving $400,000 from the general fund to the capital improvement fund for grant matches and engineering, particularly for several state-funded bridge replacements and future grant projects.

All of these proposals were well received. Council President Donnie Miller said he would prefer to see the new parking lot at Veterans Park paved, but otherwise there no objections.

Councilman Jarvis Elston commended Muenger for his “bold, assertive stand” and Councilman Horace Patterson wholeheartedly echoed this opinion.

Mayor Larry Barton also agreed, particularly with the resolution involving paying down some of the city’s bond debt.

During the same meeting, the council also unanimously approved a new ordinance banning commercial truck traffic from Eastaboga Road from the 275 Bypass to Alabama 21. Public Works Director Karen Phillips said she had met with representatives of Koch Foods and Precision Strip who had voluntarily agreed to pull truck traffic, but enforcement had been spotty.

Muneger added that two traffic studies had been conducted, showing 1,971 vehicles and 2,019 vehicles in different 24 hour periods. About 40 percent of these vehicles were multi-axled. These vehicles had contributed to accidents, damaged stop signs and damaged private property nearby.

Police Chief Alan Watson said his officers would be patrolling the area heavily and handing out warnings at first, followed by citations. He said the state would assist with portions of the road outside the city’s jurisdiction.

Also Monday, the council:

• Heard a presentation from Connie Morrow regarding placement of a purple camouflaged toilet at various local businesses (which would then pay a fee to have it removed) as part of a fundraiser for Relay For Life.

• Saw Barton introduce Sheriff Jimmy Kilgore, Talladega High School head football coach Robert Herring and new band director Duane Player. Player is a native of Talladega.

• Saw Barton swear Ed Hall in for another term on the Cheaha Mental Health Board.

• Heard Muenger advise people having problems with debris removal to call Duane Stephens at the Water Department at 256-362-4439. Muenger, Miller, and Councilman Ricky Simpson all emphasized that the slow response was Veolia’s, not the city’s fault.

• Heard Miller and Barton say that a city newsletter printed in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce was now available, and would become a regular publication. To place something in future editions, please email info@talladega.com.

• Observed a moment of silence for those killed or injured in Boston.

• Voted 4-1 to donate $300 toward the Talladega High School Academic Awards Banquet. Miller cast the dissenting vote because local vendors were not approached to bid on catering the event.

• Announced that American Water Resources had begun marketing insurance policies in the city, but had no connection to the city water department.

• Accepted three applications to the TOP Trails Board, which will be reviewed by a committee consisting of Muenger, Simpson and Councilman Joe Ballow.

• Heard Phillips report that the state had begun paving the area from the bypass south to the CSX Railroad Crossing on Coosa Street, then go around the square and to the intersection of Battle and Court Street. Work around the square will be done at night.

• Increased the grant match amount to $4,000 on an application for design standards for the historic square district.

• Approved a grant application for Americans with Disabilities Act compatibility around the square. The grant would be for $400,000 with a 25 percent match.

• Approved participation in the summer food program for 2013.

• Approved SunTrust lease purchase financing for a $854,998 energy performance contract, to be paid out over 156 months at 2.6 percent interest.

• Approved $1,200 to purchase 0.275 acres around the Amanda Bingham Well from the City Board of Education.

• Approved financing for three backhoes and a dump truck for the water department for $314,488.44 at a 1.4 percent fixed rate over 48 months.

• Announced that Patterson would be taking over as council president at the next meeting, and a new pro tempore would be elected then.

• Approved changes to the job descriptions for assistant director of parks and recreation, city clerk, administrative clerk, finance director and revenue officer.

• Commended the city employees, particularly in the parks and recreation and community appearance department, for the successful preparations for Saturday night’s block party, which was even bigger than last year’s, according to Muenger.

• Announced that a public hearing will be held before the next council meeting to discuss zoning for a sober living facility on East Street.

Contact Chris Norwood at cnorwood@dailyhome.com