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Council to hear from department heads on budget

Posted: December 18, 2013 - 9:08pm

If one city department head gets to make a pitch to the city council for more money while the city’s 2014 budget is being finalized, then they all do.

This was what the Conway City Council decided on Tuesday night when, after several minutes of discussion, District Judge Susan Weaver was allowed to speak.

Weaver is asking for $32,500 to pay the salary of a full-time security guard at the district court building. She said that this would pay for half of the new position’s salary and benefits, and that the county had agreed to pay the other half.

When district court is in session there are bailiffs and police officers in the building, but there’s no security at other times. Weaver said that the district court takes in about $10,000 every day in fines and fees, which she said raises the same security questions as a small bank, and she also said that judges and court workers often hear threats against them.

Jack Bell, city chief of staff, said on Wednesday that Weaver’s concerns are valid, “as are the needs of all our departments.” Bell said that increasing district court security might have to wait until early next year when sales tax figures are more clear.

A date is being set for a meeting in January where all department heads will be invited to make requests or air grievances before the council. Bell said this might happen at the council’s yearly retreat, which is tentatively scheduled for January 18 at the Conway Police Department’s public meeting room.

The city’s general fund, out of which Weaver’s new position would be funded, is stretched thin in next year’s budget because, among other things, of a number of raises that went into effect at the start of this year and an unexpected $313,000 increase in the cost of city employee health insurance. Budget items including travel and office supplies/small tools have been cut from the general fund.

The council voted to hold another special meeting on Monday at 4:30 to continue to discuss next year’s budget.

In other business, the council voted to enter into a $48,500 design and engineering contract with White-Daters & Associates for renovations to Curtis Walker Park. This money will come from parks and recreation funding, which by law cannot be used to supplement the general fund.

The council also approved bids for street department materials, selecting the low bidder for all materials except gravel. The low bidder for gravel was the Rogers Group, a local supplier, but the city took the second-lowest bid from Webco. City Engineer Ronnie Hall told the council that his department would continue to recommend buying gravel from another supplier until road deterioration issues with Tyler Street, which he says are caused by a defective batch of Rogers Group gravel, are resolved.

The Conway Animal Welfare Department has also accepted the donation of a $1,500 animal pulse oximeter machine from the Friends of the Conway Animal Welfare Unit organization. The council had to officially approve the addition of the machine into animal welfare inventory. Chief of Police A.J. Gary told the council that in the short time the machine had been in use it had likely saved two animals during spay/neuter surgery. The machine measures blood oxygen levels while an animal is sedated for surgery.

(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached by email at joe.lamb@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1277. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)

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