By REID TUCKER
The DeFuniak Springs City Council addressed potentially cost-saving actions ranging from changes to the city’s cell phone plans to decisions about renovating or demolishing the old Walton County Health Department building.
If applause can be used as a measure of one proposal’s success versus another’s, then Councilman Mac Work’s plan to save the city $4,366.80 in cell phone charges per year met with resounding approval.
Work presented the Council with a report of the minutes charged to all 71 mobile phones on the city’s account, a report that showed several employees’ usage was well in excess of the majority of the others. Two city water department employees in particular used 500 minutes and 1342 minutes, respectively, (1842 minutes of the city’s total 4761 minutes) during the July-to-August billing cycle. While this increased usage did not cost the city any more money, Work proposed that the cell phone call in/call out function of those two accounts and seven others be removed, a move that he showed could save the city thousands of dollars yearly and $363.90 per month.
What is more, the changes to the cell phone service plan could be enacted with no loss to the ability of the affected employees to provide services to the citizens of DeFuniak Springs.
“We won’t miss a beat in service, nor will it impair the health, safety or welfare of anyone living in DeFuniak Springs,” Work said.
The Council agreed, approving Work’s plan with a 5-0 vote.
Work also made a motion to cut the city’s budget for travel, training and membership dues in half, though he did not have a specific figure available for the Council. While Councilman Ron Kelley initially seconded the motion, further discussion from the board indicated that the Council would rather see a list of expected travel and training expenses from each city department before making a decision. The Council will review the list provided by the department heads and either pre-approve or disapprove the budgeted amount at the proposed fiscal year 2012 budget’s first public hearing, to be held Thursday, Sept. 15 at 5:30 p.m.
Kelley withdrew his second of the motion, which died on the floor for lack of a second, as Work elected not to withdraw his initial motion. He said he would again bring the issue before the Council at the next available time.
“I don’t make a motion to withdraw it,” Work said. “I’m serious about this stuff. This money is being sunk down the commode.”
Other proposals aimed at saving taxpayer dollars were introduced by Kelley and Councilman Kermit Wright, though neither plan withstood the Council’s vote.
Kelley first brought up the issue of facility rental fee waivers for non-profit organizations at the last City Council meeting but no clear consensus could be reached at that time. Under the current code, non-profit, civic and community organizations do not have to pay for the use of city buildings, such as the DeFuniak Springs Community Center, so long as an organization works in cooperation with a city program.
However, the Council sometimes waives rental fees for non-profits not affiliated with the city, on a case-by-case basis. Councilman Henry Ennis said the rationale is that the services these organizations provide to citizens outweigh the city’s maintenance and utilities expenses on the buildings.
Kelley said it was not an issue of whether the charitable organizations in question were not worthwhile, but rather that the city (and by extensions the taxpayers) incur the costs associated with upkeep on the buildings regardless of who uses them.
“I certainly appreciate charity but I prefer not to be charitable with other people’s money,” Kelley said. “That’s what the city runs on, is other people’s money.
“I think we need to charge what we charge and stop granting these fee waivers.”
Parks and Recreation Building Official Ed Joyner told the Council that an internal study done last year showed the city loses around $30,000 per year between operating costs, upkeep and utilities due to fee waivers. With that in mind, Kelley made a motion to stop granting rental fee waivers except in cases specified under the extant ordinance. Though seconded by Work, who voted along with Kelley in support of such a measure, the motion failed 3-2….
Read the full story in the September 15, 2011 edition of the Herald Breeze.