Council lowers amount available for members' capital projects, adds amendment to proposal

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comSeptember 12, 2013 

  • how they voted

    Voting to lower the capital projects proposal to $2.25 million:

    Chris Ford

    Shevawn Akers

    Diane Lawless

    Kevin Stinnett

    George Myers

    Jennifer Mossotti

    Harry Clarke

    Peggy Henson

    Steve Kay

    Julian Beard

    Voting against:

    Ed Lane

    Jennifer Scutchfield

    Chuck Ellinger

    Bill Farmer

    Vice Mayor Linda Gorton did not attend Thursday's meeting.

The Urban County Council opted not to vote Thursday on a proposal that would give the 15-member council $3.7 million for capital projects in their districts. Instead the council lowered the amount for capital projects to $2.25 million.

The $2.25 million is from a $7.6 million surplus.

The council will vote on the revised capital projects proposal at its next meeting Sept. 26.

Urban County Councilman Chris Ford made the motion to amend the proposal for the lower amount during Thursday's council meeting. Ford's motion also changed the original proposal so that all capital projects would have to come before the full council for approval. The original proposal would have given the 15-member council $250,000 each for capital projects.

Mayor Jim Gray said after Thursday's meeting that the lower dollar amount and a process that allows full vetting of projects was "a step in the right direction."

"We've worked real hard to get the city's financial ship back in shape," Gray said. "We can't be casual, cavalier and frivolous."

Four council members voted against decreasing the capital projects amount — three of whom voted against the original $3.7 million proposal during an Aug. 27 work session. They include council members Ed Lane, Bill Farmer and Chuck Ellinger. Council member Jennifer Scutchfield voted against the lower amount on Thursday but voted for the original proposal during the Aug. 27 meeting.

Many council members say their districts are starved for infrastructure improvements after years of lean budgets. Neighborhoods — where the bulk of taxpayers live — have seen little or no capital investment, they argue.

Other council members have questioned whether it was appropriate for city council members to spend money on capital projects when the city's finances are still fragile. Others said that the surplus money should be used to boost the city's Rainy Day fund or for city-wide projects.

Ford and others say the council has used the surplus wisely. For example, in April the council allocated nearly $6 million of the then-$13.4 million surplus to end "brownouts" at city fire stations and gave $2.5 million for new street lights, among other things.

"This $2.25 million would still leave $5.4 million of that fund balance to roll over to 2013. We feel like that's fiscally responsible," Ford said. "This motion was an attempt to continue to build consensus among the council and the administration to recognize that we have needs in our neighborhoods in our districts. ... In my opinion, I think we have come even closer to something that we can achieve."

Urban County Council member Steve Kay voted in favor of the lower capital projects proposal, but said during Thursday's meeting that he was not sure if he could back the proposal on Sept. 26.

"I still have questions," Kay said. "I'd be inclined to vote against it."

Vice Mayor Linda Gorton, who voted against the original proposal in the Aug. 27 work session, did not attend Thursday's council meeting.


how they voted

Voting to lower the capital projects proposal to $2.25 million:

Chris Ford

Shevawn Akers

Diane Lawless

Kevin Stinnett

George Myers

Jennifer Mossotti

Harry Clarke

Peggy Henson

Steve Kay

Julian Beard

Voting against:

Ed Lane

Jennifer Scutchfield

Chuck Ellinger

Bill Farmer

Vice Mayor Linda Gorton did not attend Thursday's meeting.

Beth Musgrave: (859) 231-3205. Twitter:@HLCityhall.

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