By REID TUCKER
Items impacting the city’s bottom line were very much the focal point of the most recent DeFuniak Springs City Council meeting, with five proposals related to staving off spending or increasing revenues on the agenda.
The first and perhaps most substantial of the items brought before the Council on Aug. 30 was a motion by Councilman Wayne Graham to implement “emergency spending mode” until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Under Graham’s original proposal, no expenditures, barring emergency purchases, would be until the start of FY2013 unless approved by either the city manager or assistant city manager in the event of the former’s absence. City Manager Sarah Bowers suggested altering Graham’s motion to refer instead to “restrictive spending,” which simply means that all purchases of any kind must first be run by the city manager or assistant city manager.
The board members approved the revised motion 5-0.
Councilman Mac Work also brought up two items for discussion that directly impact future budgets. The first was a suggestion that the city institute a nominal rental fee for all individuals and organizations renting city buildings for any purpose, regardless of whether they are not-for-profit or charity events. The second dealt with moving extra employees from one city department to another in the event of a vacancy.
As to Work’s first proposal, he cited figures from the proposed Fiscal Year 2013 budget showing a projected $35,500 to collected in rentals of the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood and DeFuniak Springs Community Center, while utilities costs for both buildings topped $40,000. That $40,000 does not include paying city workers overtime to open and close the rented venues, nor does it take into account cleanup. Ideas ranging from charging a refundable deposit to having an employee be on-call to open and lock up after weekend events were discussed at length, but in the end it was decided that city staff would look into the matter further in order to determine the true costs involved.
Work described his second proposal as a way of maximizing the output of city departments, particularly public works’ several divisions, without having to hire new employees or fire current ones, thereby saving money in the long run. The Council voted unanimously in support of Work’s plan, which does not involve creating any new positions, but instead reclassifies employees according to their new role, rank or responsibility level. This new rule will apply to all open, budgeted positions in the upcoming fiscal year.
Work also made a suggestion to revise the scheme of the raises for all city employees approved at the last Council meeting. The Council gave its consensus to give raises only to employees who worked with the city for at least a year-and-a-half, while all new hires after the start of the new fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1, will remain at their current salary levels. Employees hired after that point in time will get a raise as the start of the following fiscal year.
The final proposed action brought forward by Work involved a potential ordinance regarding panhandling within the city limits. Work said that several residents had complained to him about people begging for money at various places across town in a way that had become “obnoxious” and “an aggressive nuisance.” City staff will look into such an ordinance by comparing similar ordinances at nearby cities, with Panama City Beach being one of the most recent to pass panhandling regulations.
City attorney Clayton Adkinson proposed amendments to two city water and sewer tap ordinances, both of which were approved for first reading and advertisement for adoption by a 5-0 vote from the Council. In effect, the changes to the ordinances make customers responsible for any costs incurred if a change in bore is required prior to connection to the city’s water and sewer utilities.
Finally, Adkinson also included a request to authorize the city to remove all items from the hangar at the city’s municipal airport rented by John Reamer. However, Adkinson said it would be cheaper to avoid litigation altogether and allow Reamer a 30-day extension in which to remove all the items stored in the hangar except the tug and airplane, which he said had not been flown in three years and did not have Federal Aviation Authority approval to do so. The Council went along with Adkinson’s recommendation, but gave him approval to pursue a lawsuit if the items in the hangar are not removed by the end of the month.