Several big ticket items are included in preliminary city budget figures
The Cairo City Council and City Manager Chris Addleton gathered together Monday night to begin discussing priorities for the 2015-2016 operating budget which goes into effect July 1.
“We are moving into budget season and I need for you to let me know your priorities so we can get them in the budget,” Addleton said Monday night.
During the month of March the various department heads will be putting together their budget requests and Addleton will begin meeting with them to review those requests April 6-10.
Looming large in Addleton’s preliminary budgeted expenses will be the downtown streetscape project.
The city manager is planning to include $300,000 in the budget to be leveraged with a $700,000 grant the city was awarded several years ago for this project.
According to Addleton, the city submitted the ADA certification, utility certification and bid manual to the Georgia Department of Transportation earlier this month and is awaiting approval from state officials so that work can begin.
“I’m still hopeful we will know something in the next couple of months and can get started on this project,” Addleton said.
However, the city manager said that if the project does not begin by July it could not be finished in time for the Cairo Christmas Parade and city officials do not want construction to impact holiday sales for downtown merchants.
“We may end up having to push it back into 2016,” Addleton said.
He added, “I’m hopeful it will happen this year, but I’m not making any commitments for the paper.”
The $700,000 Transportation Enhancement Activities grant was awarded to the city in May 2011 and was the largest grant awarded to any other municipality in the second congressional district at that time.
According to the project plans, the number of lanes on South Broad Street will be reduced to two lanes and a center turn lane. Sidewalks will be expanded by six to eight feet and trees will be planted up and down the street to add color and shade.
The plan also calls for a planted median and a 30-foot-wide speed table with brick accents to slow down thru traffic and provide pedestrian crossings connecting alleyways to ample parking behind buildings on both sides of the street.
Even with the addition of trees, the plan eliminates only five parking spaces, with 30 parking spaces on South Broad Street preserved as on-street parking.
Eventually, the city hopes to receive additional grants to duplicate the first phase north of the railroad to Roddenbery Memorial Library. An additional phase would connect Broad Street to Davis Park on the east and to the Grady Cultural Center on the west.
According to the city manager, the DOT must sign off on the plans before bids can be solicited.
Officials predict it would take up to six months to complete the first phase once construction begins.
An even more expensive project to be tackled by the city in the 2015-2016 budget will be the water treatment plant and storage tank to be constructed at the Cairo Municipal Airport.
Addleton is hopeful that construction will begin in July. The city manager is budgeting $3,500,000 for the well, water plant and ground storage tank at the airport. In addition, $200,000 will be budgeted to extend a water main to the airport.
In the electric department budget Addleton is also including $100,000 to cover the cost of extending three-phase power to the airport to service the new water plant.
The city manager is also planning to recommend the council budget $450,000 for a new pumper truck for the fire department to replace a 1998 model.
According to Addleton, Fire Chief Bill Schafer is developing specifications for the new truck because once an order is placed it will take approximately one year to take delivery.
During the discussion of the fire engine, Councilman Ernest Cloud said the council had previously considered establishing a fire department substation in the northwest section on 11th Avenue N.W. at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
“I don’t see that anywhere on here. Our longest lead time to respond from the fire department is to the Country Club area. Everywhere else in the city we can be in two minutes or less,” Cloud said and encouraged the substation be considered in the budget.
Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas questioned the cost of the new fire engine. “I thought the ladder truck we bought was $500,000. Why does this one cost so much?”
The city manager said that $450,000 was just to purchase the fire engine and that estimate did not include equipping it. Addleton said that prices for fire engines have increased over the years since the city purchased the ladder truck.
Councilman Cloud also made a request for a full-time, dedicated cemetery employee be included in the budget. “We need someone who focuses solely on cemeteries to control our cemeteries. They have gotten out of hand and we need a dedicated person,” Cloud said.
The veteran city councilman also made a push to include in the budget funding to improve the entrance signs at the city’s gateways.
“Boston just redid theirs and they look really, really good. If they can do something that nice, surely the city of Cairo can, too,” Cloud said.
The only other requests came from Councilman Douglas and Councilman Lannis Thornton.
Douglas is pushing for money in the budget to repair city sidewalks and Thornton said that either in this budget or a future budget money will be needed to resurface M.L. King Jr. Ave.
“MLK is in really bad shape. We need to put money in some budget to resurface it,” Thornton said.
Addleton agreed and noted that the street is almost equal to two city streets because of its width. To resurface it from Broad Street to the city limits is just over a mile, which the city manager projected would cost $180,000 to complete.