City gives first reading OK to $31 million budget
A new assistant city administrator, a new Maryville fire station, the Kaminski House Museum and the Georgetown Business Association.
Those are some of the big-ticket items planned to be funded in the City of Georgetown’s $31 million 2012-13 budget expected to be ratified next month.
The budget — which will not require a tax increase — was given first reading approval Thursday with Council members Paige Sawyer, Rudolph Bradley and Brendon Barber voting “no.” It passed 4-3.
Sawyer said he voted against the spending plan because it includes more than $180,000 — about $20,000 less than was allocated in this year’s budget — to continue funding the Kaminski House. He says the museum should be self-sustaining.
In February 2011 city officials placed the Kaminski House on a list of items that could be cut from the budget in an effort to save funds. That resulted in the creation of a group known as the Friends of the Kaminski House whose goal was to save the museum.
The group put together a multi-year plan for making the historic landmark more profitable.
Sawyer reminded council the city has been funding the Kaminski House for 40 years and it has always cost the city much more to operate than the funding it generates.
“If this was a private business it would have closed a long time ago,” Sawyer said. “It’s still open because it is subsidized by taxpayers.”
Saying he wants to see the Kaminski House start to wean itself from the city budget, Sawyer made a motion to reduce the proposed amount from $182,000 to $100,000. His motion failed and the budget passed with the full $182,000 still in place.
Councilman Bradley said the Friends of the Kaminski House “deserve to be patted on the back” for the efforts they have made to increase revenue.
“I prefer a very gradual weaning,” he said.
According to information the Friends presented to council, the allocated funds to the Kaminski House have decreased through the years. In 2004, according to the group, the Kaminski House received $318,000. In 2010, the funding decreased to $227,000. If the proposed budget passes as is next month, the Kaminski House will receive 43 percent less than it did in 2004.
“They have made tremendous progress,” said Council member Jeanette Ard. “They have had one year. They need to be given more time.”
One million dollars in bonds are expected to be issued sometime within the next year to at least begin building a new fire department on the Highway 17 site.
The current fire station on South Island Road is too small and is, according to Fire Chief Joey Tanner, unsafe for the three firefighters who are required to be on duty at that location around the clock.
Before any construction can begin, a large part of the former Eagle Electric building must be removed.
On Thursday night, council agreed to spend $45,000 to have asbestos removed and disposed of from the structure.
Once that is complete, the demolition will take place.
Bradley voted for the funding, since it is coming from bonds and not the general fund, but he feels the station on South Island Road can be upgraded to suit the needs of the department.
He wants the Highway 17 property to be used as an industrial park.
“When I supported the purchase of the property, I made it clear I wanted to see it used for job creation,” Bradley said.
Barber, who voted against the land purchase, said it is not a good place for a fire department because it is not centrally located.
“Strategically, it’s a bad location,” he said.
City Administrator Chris Eldridge pointed out if a hurricane hits the city, the South Island Road station has a high likelihood of flooding but the Highway 17 property is not in a flood area.
Bradley has been an advocate of hiring an assistant administrator for many years.
In the proposed budget the position will be created and a search for someone to do the job will take place.
One question that was not answered Thursday was how much the person who gets the job will be paid.
Mayor Jack Scoville suggested a salary range of $50,000 to $75,000 but Council member Jeanette Ard suggested the range begin at $60,000.
City officials will check with other municipalities around the state to determine what an average salary for someone in that position is and will update council next month.
Whoever is hired for the job is expected to also act as an economic director for the city, something Scoville and some others on council have been wanting.
Bradley said having an assistant administrator will “take some of the burden off of the department heads.”
The GBA is requesting $200,000 to continue with the “It’s a Bridge, Get Over It” ad campaign that has been on TV commercials, print ads and on various websites for the past few months.
The GBA has been using $50,000 that was allocated last year by council for the campaign.
About 20 people — residents and business owners — addressed council Thursday night urging them to provide the requested funds.
Sawyer made a motion which would have provided the $200,000 but was quickly informed by City Finance Director Jessica Miller there was not enough money left in the Hospitality Taxes account.
Scoville asked Miller and City Administrator Chris Eldridge to look at the Hospitality account and see how much can be given to the GBA.
They were asked to report what they find to council next month. However, both Eldridge and Miller have announced they are leaving the city at the end of May.
No matter how much is allocated, Sawyer said he would like to see the amount matched by businesses in the city.
By Scott Harper
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