At the forefront of the Piedmont City Council Meeting on Tuesday, was an effort to look at ways to cut city spending. The council passed several cost-cutting measures, with the possibility of more on the horizon.
Council Member Frank Cobb urged the council to reconsider its July 1st decision to not seek advice from “professionals” at Jacksonville State University on recommended improvements to the city’s finances. After previously deciding to conduct their own analysis as a cost-saving measure, the council changed their minds Tuesday following a series of budget meetings. While most agreed that professional advice was the way to go, not every council member was on board. “We’ve got a mind of our own,” said Council Member Keller, insisting on conducting an in-house analysis. In a 4 to 3 vote, the council agreed to hire JSU for an estimated $14,000.
The council did, however, pass a series of its own cost-cutting measures. The city will now charge schools for trash collection, saving an estimated $1,500 per month; discontinue credit cards used to pay for fuel for Piedmont City School vehicles, currently averaging less than $400 per month; and begin charging city departments utility fees. This, according to Baker, will allow the department heads to track and reduce utility usage.
Council Member Ben Keller made a motion for a 1-percent sales tax increase, which would increase the city’s sales tax to 10 cents on every dollar. This, according to Baker would be for operational expenses. After failing to receive a “second,” the motion died.
The council passed a resolution to enter into an agreement with BancorpSouth Bank to proceed on the financing of a garbage truck in the amount of $225,000. Additionally, the council agreed to purchase a boom truck from Ingram Equipment Company for $125,570. Council Member Frank Cobb noted that these purchases would “pay for themselves” through the collection of utility payments.
Upon the council’s request, Ruby Stockdale was present to address the council’s concerns regarding her plans for a new adult daycare center in the former Piedmont Hospital building. Stockdale, who has been working for the past two years to open the center, had previously requested that the city cover the $16,852 needed to bring the sprinkler system up to code.
Council Member Frank Cobb wanted an assurance that the city would see a return on their investment. Stockdale responded that she would pay lease, utilities, and would be willing to, at some point, purchase the facility. Additionally, Mayor Bill Baker said that they would need to determine the cost for any additional repairs, such as potentially costly plumbing repairs, before deciding to spend city funds. Baker then asked Stockdale if she would be interested in purchasing the building in its current state and assume the cost for all repairs. Stockdale said she would consider purchasing the facility at a “fair market value.” No action was taken by the council.
The council also approved bills for payment for $208,221.44. As of June 30th, there was also a total balance of $1,557,706.98 remaining in bond accounts.
The council passed a resolution that will allow the city to move forward with the next step to demolish two dilapidated structures located at 105 Eubanks Avenue and 116 Seaboard Avenue, and to recover the cost of demolition and removal from the property owners.
In order to ensure proper maintenance of the roadways inside Highland Cemetery, the council passed a resolution that will turn ownership of the roads over to the city.
Mayor Bill Baker informed the council that the city had been approached to purchase the former street department building in the amount of $135,000. After determining that the city had no need for the building, it was decided to not proceed with the purchase.
After informing the council of potential funding for upgrades to the city’s aging water treatment plant during the June 3rd meeting, CDG Engineer Lance Armbrester and Representative Jana Monday returned to update the council. They informed the council that the city could receive much more grant monies through the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in the next funding cycle. At their recommendation, the council voted to withdraw the current grant application in order to reapply in the fall.
The next regular Piedmont City Council Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, August 5th, at 6 pm.