City Council looks at operations on 2016 budget


By Gary Budzak - gbudzak@civitasmedia.com



Automated meters are on the way for Delaware city water customers.

Delaware City Council continued its 2016 budget work sessions Tuesday evening, hearing from its operations directors.

Among the highlights of public utilities director Brad Stanton’s presentation to council was that automated meters will be used to read residential and commercial water usage, starting in the spring or summer.

The automated readers will provide more accurate readings for consumers, instead of estimates, he said.

Stanton discussed his six divisions — water treatment; water distribution; wastewater treatment; wastewater collection; storm water conveyance; and watershed management.

Stanton said the new water treatment plant is working well, but there were increased costs associated with electricity and chemicals used to soften the water. He suggested lowering those costs in 2016 by increasing the hardness slightly.

However, Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle and council member Lisa Keller said to maintain the current level.

“Water hardness is a big thing,” Keller said. “People complain about it a lot.”

Planning department director David Efland said that phase one of the downtown “wayfinding” project is virtually completed, with new signs put up around town. He said Glenross North, the first new subdivision for the city since 2008, was annexed this past year. The city’s population is now estimated to be more than 38,000.

Efland said a downtown façade grant has been successful, with 16 businesses complete and six in progress. He was asked if the program could be expanded into other parts of the city.

For 2016, Efland said he wants to get some of the city’s infrastructure maps updated for a new comprehensive plan slated for 2020.

Human resources manager Jessica Feller requested a part-time HR coordinator, who would be responsible for recruiting. Feller said that would give her more time to offer professional development for city staff.

“This position is critical,” said Assistant City Manager Jackie Walker. “We’ve set pretty high standards for this person.”

“I fully support this,” said council member Kent Shafer. “You’re doing a lot with a little.”

Public works director Bill Ferrigno said he oversees eight divisions with an $8.6 million combined budget, including the airport; building maintenance; engineering; fleet management; solid waste; street maintenance; and traffic.

Among the highlights of Ferrigno’s presentation was that the city needs better highway safety equipment for crews doing work on U.S. 23. He said that the poles and mast arms of the city’s signals would be painted black. He said that consultants were looking into obtaining grant money to make improvements at The Point and to manage east-west traffic.

Council members asked about staffing levels for public works, wondering why people were taken off street crews to do building maintenance.

City Manager Tom Homan said that a parking study was being done, using money collected from parking meters.

Council has until the end of the year to pass the budget. The final work session will be part of the regular council meeting on Monday, Dec. 14, with presentations on the municipal court with judges David Sunderman, Marianne Hemmeter and clerk Cindy Dinovo; parks and natural resources by superintendent Stacy Davenport; and other funds by Homan and finance director Dean Stelzer.

If necessary, an additional work session may take place Dec. 17. Council is expected to adopt the budget as part of the year-end meeting on Dec. 21.

The budget estimates revenues of $19,478,000 for 2016; and the expenditures are estimated to be $19,456,219. The revenue is projected to be 5.9 percent over the 2015 budget; the expenditures expected to increase 5.8 percent from 2015. The fund balance, or rainy day fund, is estimated to be $3,319,254, which meets council’s target of 17 percent. The total appropriations of all funds is $107,906,783.

By Gary Budzak

gbudzak@civitasmedia.com

Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.

Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.