City deliberates 2014 budget

By Matt Daray

 

The city’s budget is almost set for the next fiscal year.

The City Council discussed Carbondale’s next fiscal year budget and approved the new Liberty Village nursing home’s site plan during its Tuesday meeting. Members were not alone in their concerns about some of the proposed budget’s areas, as citizens voiced some changes as well. The council also said the budget plan is available for public inspection at city hall.

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The city expects to receive $46 million in revenue with more than $50 million budgeted expenses such as $9,087,917 for the police department and $2,832,849 for the public works department.

Councilman Don Monty said he thought the inclusion of a proposed plan to repaint bike lanes, increase the number of them and have more bike-friendly signs to encourage biking should be considered. Council member Jane Adams said she agreed and thought bikers should be supported more and be able to be safely ride in the streets, especially since she had an incident where she was almost hit by a biker on the sidewalk.

The council also discussed the neighborhood assistance teams’ future, which people have proposed to eliminate from the budget because of the lack of action they see from them.

Sandy Litecky, a Carbondale resident and member of the neighborhood assistance teams, said the teams are still working and held a meeting last year, which included police staff and Chris Wallace, development services director of Carbondale.

Monty said he thinks the teams should stay on the budget, but they need to be used. Monty said the teams’ intent is to have senior staff meet with neighborhoods, hear their concerns and enact them.

“The nature of the response was, ‘Well we should just take it out of the budget,’ and frankly my response is keep it in the budget and do it,” he said.

Monty also said he was concerned the city’s proposed electronic parking meter would be an inconvenience, especially in large parking lots. Mayor Joel Fritzler said he has not been fully satisfied with his electronic meter experiences and proposed the city take meters from less-used parking areas and place them in more populated ones.

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Councilman Chris Wissmann said he was worried about the city’s next energy audit because this year’s was presented poorly. An energy audit is an inspection which surveys and analyzes a city’s energy flow and conservation.

“What a piece of crap,” he said. “It was written at maybe a second-grade level. It was just embarrassing for us. I can’t believe we paid for it.”

Wissmann said while he will not be in office for the next audit, he thinks the council should hire someone credible and not deal with another sub-par report.

The council also discussed the ways to make the city more business-friendly.

Adams proposed the city find ways to speed up either businesses’ permit process or responding to their request. She said the city’s police calls are tracked on how long it takes for them to be answered, so a similar system should be implemented to quicken business assistance.

The council also discussed and approved the site plan for the new Liberty Village nursing home addition. The construction is the result of a proposed plan to use land that was reserved for an unbuilt assisted living building.

Wissmann said he thought the new retirement center addition would be a welcome addition to the city, especially since the building’s contractors worked so closely to ensure it would accommodate residents’ needs.

“There was a lot of concern by the residents in the area that this wasn’t something they wanted or not get informed that it was proposed,” he said. “The developer bent over backwards and did a great job, I think, working in the neighborhood to come up with something that everybody could live with.”

Carbondale resident Lee Hayden said he thinks the road that leads to Liberty Village should be constructed to stretch through an area rather than dead-end by the nursing home. He said it would make the road more accessible and prevent blockage if an accident occurred.

The council did not make any comments on this matter.

The nursing home still needs to meet city zoning guidelines before construction can begin. It will house 120 beds and replace the Rehab and Care Center of Jackson County.

 

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