Grizzaffi: First year of term spent focusing on finances
During the first year of Mayor Frank “Boo” Grizzaffi’s term, putting the city in a better financial situation was and continues to be a top priority, Grizzaffi said.
Personnel changes at City Hall placed employees in positions where they can be most effective, he said.
Grizzaffi did not know what to expect when he first took office as mayor, he said.
As far as the business side of running the city, which includes managing the city’s money, Grizzaffi did not have much of a learning curve, he said.
“Sometimes, the politics of the mayor is the difference between a private business and a city-run business,” Grizzaffi said. “Although, over this first year, I think we’ve made some major accomplishments in such a short time.”
Though the city had an adequate amount of funds reflected in its fund balance due to loans, Grizzaffi wanted to start paying off the city’s debt and did so in 2013, he said. Grizzaffi plans to spend the money the city does have wisely, and do some big projects in the future.
“We’re not just spending money because it’s in the budget. We’re making sure that we wisely spend money,” Grizzaffi said. Though the city is low on cash and owes a substantial amount of money in loans, Morgan City is in an “OK” financial situation compared to other cities, he said.
However, Grizzaffi said the city can be in a lot better situation. “If I can hang my hat on anything after four years, I’d like to be in a better financial position,” Grizzaffi said.
In 2014, Grizzaffi is looking to clear up more loans and have the city’s fund balance reflect the amount of cash the city has.
Grizzaffi knows the importance of making contacts with people who can help the city and has done that, he said. He has also made a point to walk down the hallways at City Hall and ask employees their opinions on how the city operates, he said.
He is looking to do projects that will benefit the city long-term, he said. The mayor plans to revive the city’s petting zoo with Young Foundation funding, he said. The three additional cabins the city received state funding for need to be completed before the end of 2014, the mayor said.
Another project that is in the works is the bulkhead along the Atchafalaya River with grant money. “We have engineers working on that to see how much that’s going to cost and whether we can afford to do it with the monies we have,” Grizzaffi said.
The city jail was repaired in 2013, and city officials are working to have a jail that is in better financial standing as well, he said. Within the next few months, the city plans to put a new roof on the police department and city court building, which has been leaking for several years, at a cost of $109,000, he said.
Grizzaffi’s started his term by working on areas of the city that had been neglected for years and did not cost a lot of money to fix, he said. Those projects included cleaning up Front Street, redoing the Lawrence Park tennis courts and restriping streets, he said.
A couple big projects the city was able to get done included fixing the city’s water intake pipe located on the Atchafalaya River, which had been in disrepair, Grizzaffi said.
“It was really in danger of us losing that supply,” he said. “Now it’s a 16-inch pipe, and it’s sturdy, and it’s going to be there for years to come.” Grizzaffi wants to make sure the city’s water system stays up to the state’s required standards, he said.
City officials have their work cut out for them with the city’s garbage system, a 27-year-old sewer treatment plant, and an outdated utility system, Grizzaffi said.
The city is doing the best it can to provide the garbage pickup service after the council voted to keep garbage collection city-run, he said.
The fiber optic loop the city is working to complete will allow the city to “shed load” for its power system automatically instead of manually, Grizzaffi said.
Despite disagreements with the council, Grizzaffi said council members have been helpful participating in city decisions and trying to understand a problem before any decisions are made.
With the city’s rate increases, Grizzaffi expects the sewer department and sanitation department will break even this year, thus allowing the city to have money to spend out of the general fund instead of having to dip into the general fund to cover sewer and sanitation costs, he said.