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New street department personnel part of budget talks

The Sunnyside City Council continued deliberating the 2010 preliminary city budget last night, Tuesday, at a special budget workshop.

Council heard from interim City Manager Jim Bridges detailing the different funds in the public works budget. Information from tech specialist Ryan Austin on the city's IT budget was also presented.

The main discussion centered on what city staff is requesting that goes beyond what is termed baseline costs.

In the street fund Bridges told the council above baseline costs include $175,000 to replace three staff members cut from the street department two years ago. An additional $80,000 is being requested for high float emulsion oil for chip sealing city streets. Approximately $20,000 more is being requested for 200 tons of asphalt and 100 tons of leveling asphalt.

Also requested in the street fund is $34,000 to apply a one-inch layer of asphalt for the pathway along Yakima Valley Highway and $9,000 for materials to do sidewalk and curb repair.

Council was on board with nearly all the requests but some had concerns with the request to fill three staff positions.

Councilwoman Theresa Hancock questioned hiring three employees and inquired about using seasonal help instead. Bridges told council seasonal workers are used but only for non-bargaining unit work. The three positions would put the city's maintenance program on an even-keel, he said, adding that he felt the additions were necessary.

Hancock still had her reservations, stating she wasn't ready to make that decision without knowing where the city is at with its stormwater fund. She thought the number of new hires could be scaled back to two.

Mayor Paul Garcia asked Bridges if the seal coating process would be hampered if the three staff positions weren't filled. Bridges stated that the work would be completed but other departments in the city would be affected.

Garcia told Bridges he felt the justification for the three new positions hadn't been met. Council promised to look back into this when numbers for the city's stormwater fund are known.

In the city's water fund a 4 percent increase in rates increases 2010's revenue projections by $850,000.

Above baseline requests in this fund include $100,000 to complete a state mandated water comprehensive plan for 2010. Another $24,000 is slated for supplies and materials and $24,000 is being sought for the outsourcing of the cross connection program.

Revenues in the city's sewer fund are also expected to rise due to an ordinance calling for a 15 percent increase in fees that was approved last year. Bridges told council the city probably wouldn't need to raise rates by that much and is expected to roll it back to cover just what is needed for expenses. Council will look at the rate increase ordinance at the Monday, Nov. 23, city council meeting.

Bridges is requesting $150,000 to purchase a new blower for the city's wastewater treatment plant. He told council this is a wise investment since the city's power expenses rise each year. The blower uses 75 percent of the power the wastewater treatment plant uses and he said the new blower will reduce electricity costs by 33 percent.

The city's equipment rental fund was also discussed. Bridges said the city budgeted $55,000 for a used water truck. Another $55,000 is being requested for equipment to attach to a flatbed truck. The city is setting aside $20,000 for a 24-foot trailer to haul the city's bobcat.

Austin laid out his above the baseline request to council, as well, last night.

Austin is requesting $46,000 to replace the city's Spillman system. He also wants $27,500 for five new laptops for the city's police cruisers. An additional $8,000 is being requested for two laptops to be used in the city's water department. Austin also wants $3,600 for offsite storage to back up the city's computer system.

The council also heard from Sunnyside interim Finance Director Bob Noland. He told the council the city is requesting $25,000 for a professional analysis of the Sunnyside municipal court's needs and $5,000 for new office equipment.

Council was on board for all of these requests except the city's request for three new employees in the street department, with some saying more information is needed before a decision can be made.

Council will meet again on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 6:30 p.m. at the Sunnyside Law and Justice Center. Staff will discuss the police, planning and building budgets at that time.

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