By Councilman Bill Summers
The council met in another marathon round. A number of changes that added and deleted budget items took place, and while I don’t have the final exact numbers, we kept our 20% reserve with around a half-million plus.
I tried to take good notes for you, but I may have missed an item or two. Here is what was accomplished:
New Squirt Truck
The old one is 23 years old with over 120,000 miles. Most of these are not your easy day trip miles either. The truck was cut in the initial budget build. The price is $450,000. We need to buy a new vehicle of some kind for the fire department each year. We could spend over $550,000 a year for the next 20 years and just barely keep up with replacing worn out and/or antiquated equipment. The council was informed that these fire truck builders have lease-to-own options so the cost could be around $100,000 for 5 years. Payment will not be likely this year, as it will take weeks, perhaps a month or two to layout equipment specs and options needed for such a truck in our community. Build time is 6 – 8 months. We could have up to six months to do the initial payment. This will likely push the first year payment into the next budget year, so no money will be required this budget year due to the long lead time to order and build. If it were to come in sooner, we have the reserve to handle it.
The council added this back in with a 10-yes, 1-no, 1-abstain. I voted yes. There was discussion about buying a used truck, a truck built on a commercial chassis versus a chassis engineered specifically for fire operations. We have bought used equipment for both police and fire. Sometimes it isn’t a bad deal, other times I think we get taken when you consider that used equipment has seen hard use. Frankly, I do not accept buying less than the best new equipment for our firefighters (and police) as their lives and ours depends on the equipment that will answer the alarm.
Three (3) additional officer positions (+/- $50,000)
I sponsored this budget amendment that added three more officer positions, in addition to the four (4) new officer positions already listed in the proposed budget. If you will recall, I stated a couple of nights ago that 4 officers were in the budget and that a grant request asking for 12 more had been submitted. We asked for a grant last year for around 16 or 17 officers (as I recall) and we did not get them. It appears that because we do not have a high crime rate (it fell this year), we do not compete well against cities with growing crime rates. However, we are 50 cops short according to FBI suggested ratios. This is a tribute to our police department and its leadership. However, you can’t keep doing a lot with little resources. I do not have faith that the grant will come through so it is time to step up and do more locally. These three positions will be added late in the year in case the grant does come through in October/November 2010. Thus, the cost of these positions will be around $50,000 for this new budget. The delay is due to trying not to cause a logjam in training new officers.
The council supported my request with a 9-yes & 3-no vote. Of course, I voted yes.
Reduced $12,000 by their own request
At our last budget meeting I asked the Red Cross why they requested $15,000 from the county commission and $20,000 from the city. They did not know. Remember, a couple of years ago we did not fund the Red Cross at all. They are another non-profit that the city has taken on to provide funding.
Tonight, the Red Cross disclosed that the county only gave them $8000 and since I/the council questioned asking us for more, they dropped their request to $8000 from us. We concurred with their request.
Parks and Recreation:
Playground Equipment (+$6,000)
Add new swings and other playground equipment for Airport Park. Approved by a 12-yes vote.
Parks and Recreation:
Playground Water Feature (+25,000)
This amount was added to $50,000 already in the budget for Pettus Park. This will allow for the purchase and installation of what I might call a “Slip n’ Slide” There are fountains, sprayers, misters and other things that throw water around for kids to run or play through.
Approved by an 8-yes & 4-no vote. I voted yes.
Parks and Recreation:
Fort Defiance (+$290,000)
I sponsored this budget amendment. Next April will be the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. River & Spires will open that same week. I am pushing, along with others,that the grand opening of Ft. Defiance will happen that week too. Tennessee is second behind Virginia in Civil War battles. As such, Tennessee is planning to get millions of Civil War enthusiasts into our state so they will visit and spend millions of dollars over the four years of the anniversary. Clarksville will take part in that. While we did not have a battle here, the area is rich in war history. The original plans to prepare the insides of Ft Defiance would have been a “yawner” in my opinion. Come once, see it, done. Much like the Rivers Flow Museum at McGregor Park. A true quality museum type facility that can provide changing events and displays will impress local residents and visitors alike. A quality presentation will be noted and word will spread and help draw people to Clarksville and visit areas such as Forts Donelson and Henry along with other locations in the Middle Tennessee area. River Boats are scheduled to come here next year for visits, and I believe one will be here the big week in April. If we are going to ride the wave of tourism and get our share of visitor dollars, we need to be good and have it ready from the opening day.
This passed by a 9-yes & 3-no vote. Of course I voted yes.
Reduced the term of the Management intern (-$9750)
I proposed this reduction. The hiring of an Airport Authority’s stepson to act as an airport manager has bothered me since it happened. The airport needs to hire a real manager and stop “jackin around”. It will take several months to get an official airport manager and get him/her situated. This will allow a couple of months of overlap to have the intern help the new manager. The intern’s job will end Dec 30 2010.
My proposed reduction passed by a 10-yes & 2-no vote. I voted yes.
Directive to hire airport manager (+$7,500)
The mayor pushed this one that directs the authority to hire a capable manager by October. Money was added to try to get a qualified candidate. This passed by with a 12-yes vote.
Directive that the admin/bookkeeper position will become a true accountant. No price/cost change.
East-West Corridor Study (+45,000)
The Mayor included the cost into the baseline of the budget today. The study will be in the $50,000 – $55,000 range. The Street Dept has set aside $15,000 for professional studies in its proposed budget so only $45,000 had to be added.
After all the changes to the city general budget, the vote was 10-yes & 2-no to approve it. I voted yes.