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Williston City Council voted Tuesday night to reduce the general fund by some 12 percent and set the 2012 millage rate at 5.9025 mills.
President Jason Cason informed those in attendance that the fund reduction was made possible, in part, by the eliminations of the employee bonus allocation and the ellimination of seven employees.
But, Cason stressed, those were actually seven unfilled positions and no layoffs were needed.
The new budget, which begins Oct. 1, also includes $302,000 earmarked for capital improvements and is the beginning of a five-year plan that will be finalized by the end of the year.
By initializing the capital improvement plan, the city will be able to better plan rather than be reactive when something needs replaced or repaired.
The adoptions of the budget and millage were the first orders of business for Cal Byrd, Williston’s newest councilor. Byrd was sworn in a little after 5 p.m., immediately before the budget hearing and meeting. (See page 7)
Later Tuesday night, the council met for its regular monthly meeting.
A large portion of the two and a half hour meeting was devoted to a counter proposal from Progress Energy (PE), the city’s electric provider.
The city’s contract with PE will soon expire and it can either renew or search out alternate providers.
Requests for proposals (RFP) are expected to go out Oct. 8, but PE wants the city to negotiate exclusively with it.
Tuesday night, some of of PE’s proposals were put out in the open, including waiving a $60,000 billing error and cheaper rates in 2014-2016.
This offer is good should the city choose not to send out the RFPs but if the plan proceeds, the offer may be withdrawn.
While some $800,000 in savings over four years could be realized with PE, not all council members were sure the city shouldn’t scope out the competition and see what other providers will offer.
Interim City Manager Oel Wingo called such an action a “crap shoot”, meaning alternative prices could be better, or they could be worse.
After a lot of discussion, the council agreed to hold a workshop with PE Monday, Oct. 1 at 4 p.m.
That way, should council members come to some kind of consensus, they can take action Tuesday, Oct. 2 during the regular city council meeting.
That action could be to further negotiate with PE or to see proposals.
In other business, the question of who the city clerk answers to– the council or the city manager–was back on the table.
The clerk, a city charter position, traditionally and by the charter answers to the city council.
But three years ago that changed when the position went under the manager.
The city charter spells out the duties of the clerk as well and it cannot be changed except by the voters.
Trying to avoid that, and any additional expense that might incur, the current city manager and clerk were told by council to put their heads together and try to determine a doable job duty decription for the clerk and present it at the next meeting.
Cason reminded everyone that when making this decision to keep in mind it is the positions, not the people filling them, that should be at the forefront of a solution.