Decorations, utility bills topics in city budget meet

Franklin city council members held the first of two budget workshops Thursday.

Finance Director Ed Hay presented the council with year-to-date spending, tentative amended numbers and tentative numbers for the upcoming fiscal year.

Hay is predicting an amended current budget of $6.059 million and an upcoming budget of $4.007 million. The difference is some $2 million in bond proceeds the city issued a few months ago and federal grants received.

Sales tax predictions are expected to be about the same next year, and the administration budgeted no projects for an increase.

Councilman Dale Rogers had a few comments on the city’s Christmas decorating initiative.

“We’ve spent almost $50,000 and anticipate another $25,000 next year,” Rogers said. “My goal was to see more lighting downtown. I know we’ve put a lot of emphasis on the bayou side and it does look nice but my goal was downtown. Ninety-percent of the people are going to ride downtown.”

“I think we have put a lot of lights there,” Mayor Raymond Harris said.

“They’ve got the little standing up little men, but that’s all we’ve got,” Rogers said.

Harris said the first year the city’s effort focused on Main Street and the area of Parc sur la Teche, and last year more was put on the bayou. “Next year I want to complete the bayou behind the courthouse and the cypress trees by the peace memorial,” he said.

Rogers said he thought the decoration project would be more along Main Street. Harris added that he’d also like to decorate Northwest Boulevard, and he hasn’t heard any complaints about the decorations along the bayou. He said he would like to place more silhouettes along the boulevard.

“But this has to be done in stages,” the mayor said. “Next Christmas I want to have some events on the bayou side.”

“All I’m saying is show me where we spent $50,000 on Christmas decorations,” Rogers said. “My vision was to put more lighting downtown.”

“That was your vision,” Harris countered. “My vision was to do the bayou and downtown.”

Rogers said, “It’s my job to put some money in this budget to do that.”

“The money’s there, I don’t see what the problem is,” Harris said. “We’re going to finish the bayou side, put a few more silhouettes downtown and then we’re going to Northwest Boulevard.”

Councilman Eugene Foulcard said he’d like to see more lights on Willow Street, and Harris said he’d also like to see a portion of Iberia Street decorated.

“That can’t be done in one year,” he said.

Councilman Chuck Autin said it would be inexpensive to string lights from lamp post to lamp post.

Harris said Belva Notto, assistant public works director, is his “decorator. If Belva likes it, it flies with me. We can have a bunch of Indians but we can’t have a whole bunch of chiefs. I like what we’ve done, and if she doesn’t like it I’m not going to push her.”

“I’m very pleased too,” Autin said. “I just wish we’d have the old-time strings of lights.”

“Belva’s the one I’m going to go with,” Harris insisted.

Also Thursday, Hay said the city would be purchasing 10 additional lamp posts as replacements along the boulevard when necessary. “Now we’ll have a current cost for it, so if anyone runs into one we’ll have a cost to replace them,” Hay said.

The council also heard from assistant fire chief Jeff Hildreth on communications system changes.

Hildreth said the department is renting tower space. With help from a grant, purchasing a new system and moving the location to the top of the St. Mary Parish Courthouse would be rent-free. Cost of the equipment, relocation combined with the elimination of rental will result in a substantial savings.

There has also been a tremendous increase in utility costs at the sewer plant, Harris said. Personnel promised to look into the cause.

The utility fund is posting a surplus of some $270,000, and the liquid and solid waste fund will end with a surplus of about $280,000.

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