Newell presents $26M budget to Parkersburg City Council

PARKERSBURG- Mayor Bob Newell presented his proposed $26 million municipal budget to City Council Tuesday.

Copies of the spending and revenue projections for the 2014-15 fiscal year were distributed Tuesday during council’s regular meeting, which also saw debate over the management of Parkersburg’s pools and a vote to contribute $20,000 to the next phase of a feasibility study on building a baseball stadium in the city.

The $26,061,483 in expenditures projected in the budget represents an increase of $216,749 over the current year’s budget.

“While the economy continues to improve, we are proceeding with caution and have only increased line items for equipment, supplies and operating costs,” Newell said.

“We have met our projected incoming revenues to date and are cautiously optimistic there will be a slight increase of revenues in the business and occupation taxes and property taxes,” he said. “We also know there will be an increase in the hotel and motel tax … but have conservatively budgeted increases at this time.”

Newell asked council to approve the purchase of 10 new police cars, for about $246,530 to be paid over three years. The police department has added three officers with the help of federal funding to hire resource officers for the city’s middle schools. Meanwhile, it has multiple cruisers with between 100,000 and 150,000 miles on them.

The budget includes the purchase of a new fire truck for approximately $685,748 over a 15-year lease.

The mayor is asking council to purchase multiple items- including equipment for the police cars, salt spreaders and blades and oxygen equipment for firefighters – outright for a total of $210,036 instead of financing them and incurring additional interest charges.

“Financing disposable items takes a large bite from our general fund budget (and) prevents us from completing more projects and, more importantly, prevents us from addressing wages for our employees as needed,” Newell said.

Councilman Jim Reed, chairman of the finance committee, said it sounds like a good idea.

“We’ve never approached it that way before,” he said.

Addressing wages for employees will wait until later in the year, Newell said, once the cash carryover from the current fiscal year is known. It’s projected in the budget at about $1.1 million.

“I feel confident that we will meet our carryover this year, but we should remain conservative, because like any other revenue, it is just a projection,” the mayor said.

Council Vice President Nancy Wilcox will preside over the budget hearings. The first is slated for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18, in council chambers.

In other business, council unanimously voted to spend $20,000 from capital reserve funds on the second phase of a study on the feasibility and economic impact of building a minor league baseball stadium in the city.

During a finance committee meeting on the matter prior to the regular council session, Newell said that although locations outside Parkersburg have been bandied about, the next phase of the study will focus solely on two sites within the city limits- Fort Boreman Hill and the Sixth Street area downtown.

“This information is not going to be used to put a baseball field anywhere else but inside the City of Parkersburg,” he said.

During the council meeting, Parkersburg resident Don Rhodes urged council to vote against the expenditure.

“If they have people interested, investors in this, I think it’s time for these people to step up,” he said.

Newell said the business community is supporting the study through contributions to the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley, the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Wood County Development Authority, which have contributed to both phases of the study.

“The business community is behind it, and they ought to pay for it,” he said.

The second phase of the study, to be performed by Chicago-based AECOM Technical Services, which did the first phase, will cost $27,000. As with the first phase, there is also a $12,000 charge by the Rooney Sports and Entertainment Group, which is facilitating the process and would market the new facility.

The second phase will evaluate the potential locations and make a recommendation and project potential funding and financing approaches and revenue for the ballpark, which is planned as a home stadium for a Frontier League baseball team, in addition to a venue for concerts and other events.

Council voted 7-2 to approve a contract with Professional Pool Management LLC to manage the pools at City and Southwood parks this summer. The company will be paid a maximum of $213,575.93 to hire and manage lifeguards and other staff and perform minor repairs. All revenue from the pool and its concessions goes to the city.

Councilman Roger Brown made a motion to send the proposal to the Public Works Committee to see if a cheaper option was available. Newell said Professional Pool Management was the only company to bid on the contract and it is cheaper to hire them than to manage the pools in house, as the city has done in the past.

Brown’s motion failed, with only Councilmen Mike Reynolds and John Kelly voting for it. Kelly and Brown opposed the resolution to award the contract.