City Council meeting, FY2014 budget, Sept. 30, 2013

Homewood City CouncilThe council tonight passed the city’s FY2014 budget with a balanced $40.4 million general fund–an increase of $379,063 over the figure presented in the mayor’s budget on Aug. 25. Link to new budget here.

For the past month it has been the task of the council Finance Committee to digest the mayor’s total $63.8 million spending plan across 15 separate funds and adopt its own version before the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year.  Finance Committee chairman Walter Jones made only brief remarks about the substance of the committee’s final budget, saying the committee left most of the mayor’s requests intact but reduced the $4.6 million in expected property tax revenues due to the unexpected shortfall of $1.5 million this year, sending unspecified cuts throughout the total budget. Details will emerge when the budget is made available online.

The committee, also left intact the mayor’s request to create a new Public Service Department from consolidating Parks and Recreation–which is governed by an autonomous board–with Streets and Sanitation departments, and promoting parks director Berkley Squires to director of the combined entity. The consolidation creates two other new positions, Assistant Public Works Director III and Park & Recreation Superintendent, and promotes five personnel overall, according to the finance director. However, the reorganization netted a savings by defunding the $89,000 public works director position, left vacant by the director’s retirement earlier this year.

Before the presentation, the budgeted U.S. 280 pedestrian bridge

The council denied any rumors that a pedestrian bridge planned on Hollywood Boulevard (seen in distance) would include a sidewalk along the Union Hill Cemetery fence. Two cemetery preservationists said a sidewalk could threaten unmarked graves and increase litter in the historic burial ground. Councilman Peter Wright said pedestrians exiting the bridge would stay on the street pavement.

The council denied any rumors that a pedestrian bridge planned on Hollywood Boulevard (in background) would include a sidewalk along the Union Hill Cemetery fence. Two cemetery preservationists said a sidewalk could threaten unmarked graves and increase litter in the historic burial ground. Councilman Peter Wright said pedestrians exiting the bridge would continue as they do now–on the street.

received sharp criticism from two speakers, Shirley Vines, of Friends and Family of Union Hill Cemetery, and Kermit Dooley, of a state cemetery preservation group.  Both opposed any sidewalk planned in connection with the bridge if it ran alongside the cemetery on the north side of Hollywood Boulevard. Ms. Vines cited the possibility of unmarked graves extending beyond the fence that she didn’t want to be “paved over” and Mr. Dooley said the sidewalk would create a littering problem. However, councilman Peter Wright emphatically denied that sidewalks were ever planned for the bridge approach. Although he said the bridge was necessary for the safety of runners, once they had crossed the bridge, they would continue to run where they do now–“on the pavement,” he said.

Council members present:  All–Michael Hallman, Britt Thames, Fred Hawkins, Vance Moody, Patrick McClusky, Walter Jones, Jenifer Champ Wallis, Heather Reid, Richard Laws, Peter Wright, and council president Bruce Limbaugh. Also present was mayor Scott McBrayer.

Staff present:  City clerk Linda Cook, city attorney Mike Kendrick, mayor’s chief of staff J. J. Bischoff, city Building, Engineering and Zoning staff Greg Cobb.

 Audience attendance:  26

Approved minutes:  The council approved minutes of the Aug. 12, 2013 meeting.

Appropriated $4,098 for a phone app: The Nashville firm iCity Corp. provides communication services for cities. This product is a phone and computer application that lets the user check a city events calendar, and receive and/or send notifications of emergencies, bad weather, etc. The representative is a Homewood resident.

Approved military supplement change:  As recommended by the Finance Committee, the council agreed to reduce from two years to one year the tenure required to receive pay if deployed. The action currently would affect one employee.

Approved 5-year ATT Uverse franchise renewal: This was passed on the Finance Committee’s recommendation. An ATT representative also answered some questions, and deflected some questions, asked in committee:  Number of ATT subscribers in Homewood over last five years? 1,850;  Questions about capacity to reach specific houses in Ward 1 —Must be within 5,000 feet of a Uverse utility box. Number of business subscribers in Homewood versus residential?  Still researching. How many of the city’s 12,000 households have access to Uverse? No answer because this is a proprietary question having to do with “saturation.” ATT has spent $14 billion in Alabama to deploy Uverse.

Approved two sign variances, two liquor license applications, one event permit:  The council passed sign variances for Rexel at 135 Distribution Drive and for a business at 1920 Huntington Road; a retail liquor application for La Bamba Grill at 1006 Oxmoor Road, and Michael’s Steak and Seafood at 1903 29th Avenue South; an event permit for Kick’n Chick’n Wing Fest 2013 in the parking lot behind City Hall at 2950 19th Street South. 

Approved FY 2014 budget in a series of separate fund resolutions: General Fund, Capital Projects Fund, Insurance Fund, Debt Service Fund, 4&5 Cent Gas Tax Fund, 7-cent Gas Tax Fund, E-911 Fund, Court Fund, Jail Fund, Board of Engineering and Zoning Department Technology Fund, Board of Education Trust Fund, General Obligation Construction Fund.

Approved, with one absention, the creation of new Jefferson County Personnel Board Public Service positions:  See introduction, above. 

Abstaining: Mr. Hallman abstained because he opposed the measure, and his name was on the list for one of the positions.

Included was a ~2.5% reduction in city contributions to Retirement Systems of Alabama for participating employees, but a corresponding 2.5% cost of living allowance for all employees mid-year and in November bonuses or longevity pay for full-time employees, drawn from the year-end surplus. Surplus amount not disclosed.

The city also budgeted money to pay for a city-wide wi-fi system in the coming year, beginning with city parks.

Consent agenda–approved in one vote:  The council dropped a request for a cross walk and signals on 18th Street–no cross street given–and approved an already budgeted, $79,000 software maintenance contract for police dispatch with the company New World.

Referred the following eight items to committees, as follows: To Finance – Request to revise, with increased fee for geotechnical services, a contract with Goodwin, Mills and Cawood Inc. for the Lakeshore Greenway extension, Phase II and Phase III; and a request for end-of-year adjustments to FY2013 budget. To Public Safety – Request for a WalMart/Wildwood traffic study (sent simultaneously to Finance); request to review the Homewood “APPLE” Traffic Study Intersections (?), and a request to look at traffic problems on Clermont Avenue between the 400 and 1400 blocks.

New Business

Set three sign variance public hearings for Oct. 14, 2013, as follows:  For businesses at 2740 Central Avenue, 222 Green Springs Highway (Dollar Tree), and 2712 19th Street South.

Approved payment of invoices for Sept. 16-27, 2013. 

The meeting adjourned at approximately 7:40 p.m.

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