Belpre begins budget work

BELPRE – The city council finance committee began discussions for the 2013 fiscal budget on Tuesday with a special meeting.

“I’ve been talking to the department heads and getting together lists of what each department needs,” said Mayor Mike Lorentz. “I want us to sit down and discuss what needs to be done.”

Councilwoman Susan Abdella, chair of the finance and audit committee, ran the meeting with members of council present with the exception of Councilman Eric Sinnett. Councilman Larry Martin participated by telephone.

Lorentz handed out a paper that listed the items each department is requesting, including a new camera for the police department to use for evidence, new vehicles and maintenance on the city building.

“We are never going to get ahead if we don’t work on it now,” he said.

One of the major items on the list is an upgrade to the Congress Road booster station for the water system.

“During the storm last summer, people whose homes are serviced by that station were without water and sewer when everyone else at least had that,” Lorentz said. “That needs to be addressed.”

Safety-Service Director Dave Ferguson said the city needs to have the sewer lines evaluated and likely repaired.

“At some point we are going to have to repair problems with the sewer lines because we know there are some,” he said.

Discussions also included inspections of the city water tanks, repairs and purchase of equipment for all city departments and if there is enterprise money available for the nearly $500,000 worth of items on the list.

“These are just things we need to do at some point,” Lorentz said. “I don’t think all of this needs to be done now, nor is it all inclusive.”

Ferguson said the items mentioned were at the top of the departments’ lists and there are other things council has not been told of.

“There are many other items that they want and could use that are not on this list,” he said. “Our crew is working with equipment that needs to be patched daily and it’s not a pleasant picture.”

Lorentz mentioned the yearly payment to Ameresco for the energy-saving project it did with the city in 2006 is hindering the city’s purchasing power.

“As long as we are making a million dollar payment every year to Ameresco, we are going to be patching things up and we can’t do that much longer,” he said.

The city has four more years of those payments.

“Equipment is critical, so we need to figure out what is and is not necessary,” Martin said.

Discussions will continue as the committee and council as a whole decide what can and cannot wait.