Some city lights that came down a few years ago will be going back up.
The city council voted 6-3-1 to have the lights ranked as priority 1 put back up. When the lights are reinstalled they will be LED lights.
Aldermen Mark Doornink, Phil Rath, and Bill Zienert voted no. Alderwoman Amy Steenbock, who was sworn in earlier in the meeting, abstained from the vote.
The priority 1 lights include 28 lights. The cost to the city is estimated to be $913, while the cost to the utility will be $10,020. Most of the lights going back up are owned by the utility.
Alderman Greg Rose said he attended the most recent Street Committee meeting, where a spreadsheet was handed out that included all the lights that were taken down. The light locations were ranked on a priority list — 1, 2 or 3 — based on safety concerns.
The lights deemed priority 2 or 3 will not go up at this time.
Alderman Phil Rath, who is also the chairman of the Street Committee, said he cast the only dissenting vote at the committee level.
“At this point in our budget process we simply do not have the money to go ahead with this project,” Rath said. “There was a lot of hard work that went into this project and I appreciate the effort of the utility people who made lists for us. I think it is an excellent future resource, but at this point in time I do not see [taking on] this additional expense.”
Alderwoman Gloria Dunlavy said her constituents are excited to hear the lights are coming back on.
Rose said he recognized the tight budget, but said this is a need that has to be met. He said there is some unspent money in the current budget, and things can be moved around in the budget.
“There are ways that department heads can move projects around and reallocate money,” Rose said.
Doornink asked if the cost to put the priority 1 lights back up is in the proposed utility and city budgets.
Doornink also asked for clarification of the motion, whether it was to put the lights back up, or have the department heads get the cost in the budget to put them back up.
The motion was clarified that it included putting the lights back up. It didn’t include anything about making sure the cost was in the budget.
The council was also notified the costs were not included in the budget.
“I just ask the council to consider there are a lot of things going on, and I understand that we need to consider these lights. I just ask that you give the committee and department heads time to work this out. Right now we’re making the list bigger, not smaller,” Doornink said. “… We’re already looking at some really tough decisions.”
Dunlavy said it was time to look out for the citizens.
“Maybe it’s time we need to show we’re trying and give a little bit back,” Dunlavy said.
Zienert said he agreed it should be a priority, but thought it would be prudent to give the department heads time to work out how to get the costs in the budget.
“We’re talking about being over budget $425,063. The budget, while apparently there have been line items that haven’t been used up, the to-date budget is $12,000 over. You’ve just added additional costs with an interim city administrator. Now we are adding more costs with the street lights. And while I’m not against either of those decisions, all I’m saying is let’s not handcuff the department heads tonight. Let’s ask them to consider it in the budget and add it into the priority list as we do with so many things that we need to provide with services,” Zienert said.
Rose said he agreed with Zienert to let department heads work the costs into their budgets, and the priority 2 and 3 lights should get worked into the budget for next year. But he said the department heads should rearrange their budgets to get the priority 1 lights up.
He said his constituents don’t want this prolonged any further.
Rath said since the lights were taken down, he has heard negative comments from only two constituents.
City Council President and acting Mayor Jeannie Schley said the utility is short staffed so they lights won’t be going up immediately.
Schley expressed concerns to the council about the actions Mayor Judy Magee has taken while she has been on a medical leave. She said a city phone was returned to city hall after hours and she didn’t know who returned it. She said prior to the phone being returned, “the mayor took it to a business and had it wiped clean.”
Schley said having the phone wiped clean caused the loss of city data. She said the phone charger wasn’t returned.
Discussion of the security of city hall after hours ensued.
Schley said she thought too many keys to city hall have been issued.
Rose made a motion to send the issue of city issued equipment/cellphone to the Personnel Committee for further discussion of the policy.
The motion passed unanimously.