Caught a good chunk of the city council meeting tonight. Only actual piece of business voted on, besides the warrants approving various contracts and expenditures, was approval for the remodeling and expansion of the Long John Silver's restaurant on the east side of town. Passed unanimously with one question from city council candidate Lance Jack, asking if any city funds or inducements were offered to aid in the expansion. The answer was no, to which Jack responded that he had asked the question to emphasize that despite some perceptions, the city did not offer tax inducements to entice business to town.
Citizen comments on the budget opened up with a parade of council and mayoral candidates including Hugh Williams, Jane Adams, Sam Goldman and Don Monty. Though one speaker, Seymour Bryson, came out in favor of the mayor's proposed District 95 reading and writing program, all the others, including all the candidates, spoke in opposition to it, saying that, even though the projected finances of the city appeared improving, the program had no termination clause during its five-year duration if it proved not to work, and as written, no methods of evaluation regarding its success were included.
Another area of concern brought up was the recreation of the economic development manager position. Don Monty and Jane Adams were both concerned that the specifics of the position were unclear. What was the position's actual title, as it had two different ones in the budget and where was its position in the city's organization chart? Citizen comments closed when a younger community member, Baylon Earles, thanked the city council and manager for their work on the budget and improving the city.
Caught part of council comments on the budget. Steven Haynes expressed some concerns about the proposed economic development manager as far as how it fit into the city's organization. Both Mike Neill and Chris Wissmann focused on the longer term problem facing the city, that of pensions, with Wissmann pointing out, and the mayor concurring, that, given the rate of pension growth, the city would pay more in pensions to retired staff that it would in salaries to employed staff. Wissmann further pointed out the budget contains an increase of $400,000 for health insurance costs and $560,000 for retirement costs, such that hiring a new police officer, in Wissmann's example, was like paying for 1.47 officers.
I left the meeting as Corine McDaniels spoke in favor of the District 95, reading and math program, saying that, while it was true the city needed to concern itself with basic governmental functions, it also needed to work with the schools to help those who are the city's future.
I was mildly amused to see Chuck and Janet Vaught in the audience. Barely retired and returned from a Florida vacation and already back at council meetings.