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Vienna discusses finances, spending priorities

Vienna City Council met in Thursday to discuss finances and the future. (Photo by Jenna Pierson)

VIENNA — Vienna City Council met Thursday evening to give an update and provide clarification on CARES Act money as well as city revenue.

Finance Director Amy Roberts provided an update for councilmembers that outlined money received this year in federal assistance in light of COVID-19, and compared these numbers to the previous fiscal year of 2019.

“Nearly all CARES Act money that has been requested and approved has been given to the police department and fire chief salaries and benefits,” Roberts said as she presented the numbers. “Additionally money has been given for dispatcher salaries, money has paid for temperature checks at youth sporting events, disinfecting various city buildings and facilities and the purchases of masks and cleaning supplies.”

The City of Vienna has applied for and received $916,944.83 in CARES Act money and has applied and is awaiting potential receipt of $192,851.82 in addition, according to Roberts.

According to Roberts, the city of Vienna has also received $63,506 for the Small Business Relief Fund on behalf of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and $56,370 for the Family Relief Fund, which will begin in the future and provide up to $2,000 for residents who are behind on rent or mortgages due to COVID-19.

Governor Jim Justice has also recently allocated $25 million for utility companies to use towards past balances from the time period of March 1, 2020, to July 31, 2020. Customers in Vienna who are eligible for this assistance were mailed a letter and application this week and the city can assist residents in meeting the deadline of Nov. 30, she said.

Roberts then presented numbers for revenue, which indicate that the city of Vienna is up by $126,391.64 for property taxes in the first quarter of this fiscal quarter of 2020 compared to 2019. Sales tax declined by $103,263.20 and the B&O tax also declined by $40,493.71.

Roberts explained that these numbers were up for the third quarter and that the city will be up in revenue by close to $2 million for this year in total.

“What are our plans if we are up over a million dollars? A stablization fund?” councilmember Roger Conley asked. “I think it is critical we be conservative with this money … we absolutely have got to establish a five- to 10-year plan.”

Councilmember Mike Elam said a potential avenue for the surplus could be small local businesses.

“A lot of small businesses have taken a big hit, so maybe we can take a look at B&O taxes to try and help them out,” Elam said.

Conley also said the money should be planned and handled in a way that could assist with infrastructure, such as streets and water lines in the city.

“We can not ignore the fact that it is going to take a tremendous amount of money to fix the water lines,” Conley said.

Mayor Randy Rapp said asphalt companies do not operate in the winter and resumption of fixing city streets will occur with bids going out for companies after the first of the new year with repaving continuing next spring.

When discussing finances, Conley mentioned the Johns Manville property.

“We spent two and a half million dollars on Johns Manville that isn’t even close to giving us a return on our investment,” Conley said. “We have got to get our priorities together.”

Other council business included:

∫ Public Forum comments from various members in attendance expressed disappointment that the Public Forum Ordinance, which would include public comments in the meeting minutes, failed at the previous meeting.

∫ Rapp responded to comments made that the Johns Manville property is not shovel-ready by providing input from the Wood County Development Authority refuting these claims and stating that the property checks all the boxes. Conley responded with a photo example of a shovel-ready property.

“To say that Johns Manville checks all the boxes would be a stretch,” Conley said.

According to Rapp, a large undisclosed company is on the radar to look at utilization of the property.

∫ The City of Vienna has a Drug Take Back Day being held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department for the safe disposal of expired prescription drugs.

∫ The City of Vienna is holding a Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11 at noon at the Gold Star Memorial at Spencer’s Landing. Residents are asked to leave their porch lights on after 6:30 p.m. on Veterans Day in remembrance.

∫ Trick or Treat will be held Oct. 31 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

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