Belpre Council discusses spending

BELPRE – Before the regular city council meeting Monday evening, the finance and audit committee discussed the 2014 Temporary Appropriations and changes to last year’s spending.

“We have added a memorandum of understanding to the new police contract that amounts to a new part-time dispatcher,” said Mayor Mike Lorentz.

The Belpre City Police Department is running with four full-time dispatchers who are accruing 35 hours of overtime each per month, Lorentz said.

“We need someone to come in for a few hours a month as a cushion,” he said.

The department is training a woman who will be one of the people tested during the city’s scheduled Dec. 9 Civil Service testing. Whoever is hired will be set up to work on an as-needed basis when a full-time dispatcher is not available.

“This person will allow us to keep our 911 certification that we could be in jeopardy of losing without the coverage,” Lorentz said.

This new person could be used to help the city save money on overtime, said committee chair Susan Abdella.

“So, we could technically utilize this person to reduce overtime?” she asked the mayor, who agreed.

The Temporary Appropriations are legislation the city needs to pass in order to spend available funds in the first quarter of the new year before the permanent appropriations legislation is passed by council.

Council was approached by resident Dave Dye, 807 Westview Drive, who asked whether there will be a budget payment plan with the city’s upcoming natural gas aggregation program.

“I like to do a budget and I know a lot of other people are on tight money and like to use budgets on their utility bills,” Dye said.

None of the city officials or council members knew the answer.

“That is one question we have not had answered for us,” Lorentz said.

Councilman Dewey Robinson, 4th Ward, said he researched throughout Ohio with other cities with utility aggregation programs and that is one question he did not look into.

“I went all over the state asking questions before I brought this to the council and it never even dawned on me to ask this,” Robinson said.

Dye said utility bills are all calculated costs.

“I don’t understand why if you’re doing billing you can’t just do a budget as well,” Dye said.

The opt-out natural gas aggregation program will soon begin as the second of a two-part program the city begin last August when the city’s electric aggregation program began.

There is no budget payment available through DPL Energy Resources, which provides the program as organized by Volunteer Energy, which is the city’s partner for the two energy-savings programs.

The rate for the natural gas will be the New York Mercantile Exchange price plus 60 cents per 1,000 cubic foot.

In November 2011, Belpre voters passed the opt-out programs, which have the potential to save residents money if they choose to go with the city for these bills.

Lorentz and other council officials said they will look into the issue.

“I appreciate a lower cost, as a community, but I would also appreciate a budget,” Dye said.