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Budget vote delayed

By Dennis Minich

The Harrisonville Board of Aldermen delayed approval of the Fiscal Year 2021 budget Monday night as some on the board had questions about a $1.2 million deficit which was reflected in the budget.

Ben Hart, the city’s CPA presented the budget with planned expenditures of $50,696,009 but income of only $49,591,899. He explained the budget represented a 3.5-percent increase over 2020 and included six new positions. He also noted that much of the deficit is in the Emergency Medical Services Department.

“Much of the deficit comes from EMS with the general fund contributing $700,000. When you look at the budget, there is just no way to cut it down any further. I am sure Chief (Eric) Myler can tell you the department needs more help, not just more staff, but a battalion chief, but with the deficit you just can’t support it.”

Hart, along with City Administrator Brad Ratliff, noted that simply because money is budgeted doesn’t mean it will be spent.

“A magic fairy doesn’t come at the first of the year and drop money,” Ratliff said. “Essentially, every month we are looking at the crystal ball to see what’s trending.”

But despite the assurances, Alderman Gary Davidson questioned approving the budget with the deficit included.

“I feel like we need to go through this as a board and see what we can whittle down. I suggest we have a work session and vote on the budget at the next meeting,” Davidson said.

Davidson later pointed out there are three weeks before the next board meeting and asked for time to work on the budget.

Alderman Marcia Milner agreed.

“If this doesn’t have to go through tonight, I agree with Alderman Davidson. Maybe if we go through the budget with the department heads, they can help us understand better,” she said.

The board voted 8-0 to enter into a development agreement with Aldi, Inc. for roadwork on Westchester Avenue and West Mechanic Street. As part of the plan for Aldi to build in the city, it was agreed both entities would contribute to the cost of street improvements. City Planner Roger Kroh said the projected project will cost about $40,000 with the city responsible for half.

“This is a Band Aid approach. We found with the funds we could widen Westchester Avenue and add another lane,” he said.

The lane would serve as a left turn lane onto Mechanic Street and would ease the traffic turning right. It is anticipated that at the peak time of 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., the wait to turn left could run as long as 70 seconds Right turns should take less than 25 seconds.

Kroh call the fix a “Band Aid” because in the long term, much more work should be done, including multiple turn lanes and traffic lights.

The board failed to take action on a request from B&B Theaters to refinance some past due utility bills for the next 12 months. Although several members noted the importance of the theaters and the costs incurred by being closed, there was concern about the example it would set.

“We are opening ourselves up,” Milner said. “I don’t know if we want to establish this precedence at this time.”

The resolution died for lack of a motion.

Following up on action from the first meeting of the month, a committee of three aldermen was selected to investigate allegations against Alderman David Dickerson. The board voted 6-1 on Nov. 2 to investigate alleged codes and ethics violations. The appointment of the committee was the next step according to city ordinance. Chosen were Mike Zaring, Dan Doerhoff and Milner. Zaring was chosen as the chairman of the committee.

The board also answered questions necessary for a Community Development Block Grant application, which is hoped will help finance the demolition of the former water plant and electrical plant on North Lexington Street.

The meeting was held via the Internet because of the number of COVID cases in the area. Ratliff told the board he has tested positive and is currently in isolation.

Categories: Uncategorized

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