Belpre officials keep talking about upcoming budget

BELPRE – The Belpre City Council Finance Committee delayed the first reading of the annual appropriations ordinance for calendar and fiscal year 2014 in order to continue discussions.

“I would like to finish the discussions on Thursday,” said committee chairwoman Susan Abdella.

The committee held an hour-long meeting before Monday’s regular council meeting to look at the line items of the annual budget.

“The one thing that jumps out is the transfers – the money that moves from the general fund to different departments to make ends meet,” said Abdella.

Each year, council has to approve the mapped-out budget, which lists what the city expects to purchase and where the available funds go in each of the city’s departments.

This year’s line items include a sports utility vehicle for the city police department at a cost of $37,000. Abdella asked Mayor Mike Lorentz why an SUV is necessary and if the cost is similar to what was spent last year on two cruisers for the department.

“The cruisers purchased last year were $28,000,” Lorentz said. “We are looking at an SUV because there are no cruisers available for the same price as last year and the $37,000 is on par or cheaper than a car.”

Abdella also mentioned the city’s annual $159,065 to finance the infrastructure energy-saving project with Ameresco, which was completed in 2008.

The three-year project included $8.5 million to replace 3,500 water meters, update city lighting and build the new swimming pool. The largest part of the project was the $4.5 million renovation of the sewage treatment plant.

The pay-off date for the project is September 2007.

“Once this is paid off, we will have some funds to work with,” Abdella said.

The Finance Committee will continue its discussions during a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in council chambers of the Belpre City Building on Park Drive.

The first reading is expected to take place during the March 10 regular council meeting.

The legislation must be approved and in the office of Washington County Auditor Bill McFarland by the end of March.

In other business:

Lorentz with Belpre Fire Chief Eric Sinnett recognized a Belpre Police patrolman Tyler Heddleston and volunteer fire Capt. Pat Taylor for their quick thinking during an apartment fire on Feb. 7, which saved lives and thousands of dollars worth of possessions.

“Their quick thinking during an apartment fire kept a one apartment fire from spreading to eight apartments,” said Sinnett.

“I want to recognize a couple young men that are the epitome of what law enforcement and fire and rescue is all about,” the mayor said.

* Lorentz completed the swearing-in of officers for the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department and Heddleston in the police department.

Those promoted are Assistant Chief James Mason, Taylor and Capt. Steve Rogers.

* Council suspended the rules and passed the second and third readings of an ordinance amending the codified flood damage reduction ordinance.