3-30 Monett Council for March pt 1 3/20
By MURRAY BISHOFF
A special meeting of the Monett City Council has been scheduled for tomorrow at 9 a.m. for action on the budget and to hear public comment on a new version of the parking lot ordinance.
Friday's regular monthly meeting drew comment on the proposed budget from past city council candidate Deborah Schoen and her husband, businessman Stephen Schoen. The Schoens specifically targeted the golf course budget, which is projected to run a deficit of around $127,000 in the coming year.
Deborah Schoen said running up such a deficit was a plan "to rob Peter to pay Paul." She recalled a campaign promise in a previous council election to make city departments pay for themselves.
Mayor Jim Orr responded that such a pledge had come from a previous administration.
"I don't expect every department to break even," Orr said.
Deborah Schoen challenged the council to raise golf course rates. At the same time, she suggested a $500 a month lease on the historic armory to the YMCA was "a low amount for a big building," given to a private business that makes money.
Some departments do not raise revenue, Deborah Schoen continued, leaving their services to be picked up by other sources. City streets, for example, are used heavily by out-of-town residents coming to Monett. Stephen Schoen suggested a city gas tax to help cover street maintenance, and Deborah Schoen proposed an employee tax for non-residents.
At one point, Mayor Orr began to defend the spending plan but stopped himself. He said the time had been opened for public comment, and he would honor that.
"The economy is teaching us to slow down," Deborah Schoen said. "Progress is not measured alone by speed. It's measured by the quality of growth."
The parking lot ordinance, tabled last month primarily over concerns raised about time limits, was untabled and died when it received no votes for passage. A new version was subsequently introduced, changing the language on several key points.
Regulations were proposed specifically for lot use from 7 a.m. Mondays through 6 p.m. on Friday. That removed restrictions over parking in city lots over weekends. Instead of specifying no vehicle could park in a lot for more than 24 hours, that regulation was changed to 72 continuous hours. Language stating all vehicles in any lot must be in running condition and lots could not be used for repair activity remained in place.
Instead of banning lots from all congregating, which could be construed as loittering, the ordinance now allows activities such as festivals to use lots, if that activity has been cleared with city officials first.
Terms for leasing spaces in the new lot where the old police station had been located remain in place. The ordinance was created in part to establish such rules. Now that the 33-space parking lot has been paved, putting it in use requires passing the ordinance promptly. Consequently, the mayor scheduled public comment for the 9 a.m. meeting tomorrow.
Several other financial issues were addressed during Friday's meeting. Council members passed budget amendments to balance the 2008-09 fiscal year, which closes on March 31. Amendments boosted spending by $946,000 and revenues by $294,000.
City Administrator Dennis Pyle explained the extra spending represented $436,000 in equipment purchases for the new Justice Center planned for the current fiscal year that will in fact be spent in the coming year. Also, Pyle said the council opted to spend another $500,000 on the second tax increment financing district's super sinker fund. The unscheduled payment on the debt to improve roadways around the Lowe's store would save the city about $25,000 a year in interest, Pyle said.
Council members awarded a multi-year contract for engineering services to Sprenkle and Associates of Monett. Nine proposals were made to the city's call for bids. Olson and Associates and Great River Engineering were also interviewed. Mayor Orr said Sprenkle agreed to maintain the same hourly rates as it had in the previous contract.
The council approved the contract for two years, with an option for two more years at the same rates.
Council members also renewed the lease for the Monett Historical Society for use of the property at 705 E. Broadway for a museum. Mayor Orr said he believed the Historical Society still had no revenue stream. The minimal lease continues to have the city picking up utility costs on the facility.