MOUNT VERNON — Mount Vernon City Council approved a $13.674 million general fund budget for 2010 when it met in session Monday night. The total budget is $41.5 million.
“The general fund is probably where we took the hardest hit,” said City Auditor Terry Scott. “Probably 75 percent of the money for the general fund comes from income tax revenue.”
Council faced a $948,000 reduction in revenue in 2009, which caused a decrease in the amount of carryover balance for 2010. Scott said he tries to have a $3 million carryover, enough to operate two months. The carryover for 2010 is $2.5 million.
“This was although not the most difficult budget I have done, it was certainly a challenge,” said Scott. “We did cut out some major expenditures because of the price tag.”
That doesn’t mean those projects will go away, said Scott, it just means council will have to address those projects later.
Mayor Richard Mavis said changes will soon be coming to the city’s aggregated gas program. Residents in the program, 2,900 of them, get their gas through Volunteer Energy at a current rate of 10 cents under what Columbia Gas is charged. However, Columbia Gas is no longer going to supply gas, but provide transmission services only. That means the gas will be bought at the wholesale price, which will not be known until a gas auction is held next week.
The city’s gas aggregate agreement calls for a rate of 21.9 cents in addition to the wholesale price. Mavis said residents may be looking at a total rate of 79 cents to 88 cents; this includes the 21.9 cents. In comparison, a proposed new rate for IGS customers is 95 cents per cubic foot.
The new rates will take effect in April. The city’s aggregate agreement is for a two-year period, and will be up in 2011. Mavis said that once the new price is known, council will have to decide whether to renew the agreement at a fixed rate or flexible rate.
Residents will receive a letter next week notifying them of the rate change. Anyone who has questions is encouraged to call (800) 977-8374.
Mavis also said he received official notification from TRW that the company was closing its Blackjack Road facility, beginning April 5. A total of 78 jobs will be lost; the last workers will be terminated around June 28.
Regarding the connector road between Coshocton Avenue and Yauger Road, Mavis said it has been determined the city will need 2 acres from Knox Community Hospital and .40 acre from Lowe’s. Paperwork is being reviewed. It is hoped the project can be bid late this month or early March.
Council discussed snow removal from the weekend storm. Councilman John Fair requested council and the administration to think of different ways the snow might be plowed so city crews will not have to push the snow onto sidewalks or into alleys in order to get it out of the street. Councilman Chuck Dice requested the city not dump the snow in the West end, as has been done in the past.
Mavis said the primary focus is to get the snow off the highway so people can get out and move around. Dave Carpenter of the city’s street department has put crews on 12-hour shifts in preparation for the snow predicted to fall over the next few days.
Any residents who may have curbs or grass clipped from snowplows are encouraged to call the mayor’s office. Mavis said the damage will be repaired, although it may be after the bad weather has ended. Councilwoman Rebecca Jordan requested the snowplow drivers slow down a bit so as to minimize damage to curbs or grass.
Jordan also passed on a request from the Mount Vernon Fire Department not to bury fire hydrants during snow removal. If residents see a hydrant that is buried, they are encouraged to dig it out so it will be readily accessible if needed.
A brief discussion was held about the proposal to open and close the community pool one hour earlier. Jordan was concerned the earlier closing time might affect family memberships.
Discussion was also held on the proposal to create four-hour parking spaces in the downtown area. Dice reiterated his opposition to the four-hour parking, or any parking restrictions whatsoever. Council President John Booth agreed on the four-hour parking, saying he felt business owners and their employees would use the spots rather than leaving them open for shoppers.
Councilman Mike Hillier said council has been trying to work with the downtown merchants as to what downtown parking is for, and felt there are enough people downtown looking after the issue.
“The business owners have to work with us on this,” he said.
Parking monitor Larry Fogle said it will be no more difficult to monitor four-hour parking than two-hour parking. He said the primary repeat offenders of downtown parking are COTC students on Main Street, and kitchen staff of The Alcove on side streets.
Hillier noted he has seen a police cruiser watching downtown streets early in the morning, which is good. Mavis said Police Chief Mike Merrilees has not yet assigned a cruiser to sit on East High Street to watch traffic, as had been earlier discussed.
Councilman Bruce Hawkins encouraged residents to welcome the contestants in the Ohio Junior Miss program to the city. The girls are scheduled to arrive on Saturday.
Council adjourned into executive session at 8:10 p.m. to discuss litigation. No further action was taken.