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Second city council work session tonight

Posted: April 14, 2014 - 5:29pm

The Conway City Council will continue its round of work sessions at 5:30 Tuesday afternoon in the Conway Police Department’s upstairs conference room.

The council will hear from the city’s parks, planning, permits and information technology departments and from the Community Development Block Grant director.

Conway ID department director Lloyd Hartzell said he will again brief the council on what he calls an outdated police/fire radio network.

The core of the radio’s infrastructure is 10 years old and at its “end of life,” Hartzell said. It failed three times last year, once while a structure fire was burning, and the last time it went down city workers “had to go to Motorola and search the entire company” for a replacement electronic board.

Radios in many of the city’s police cars are also at the end of their lives, he said, and parts that are scarce now will be non-existent in the future.

Hartzell said he’d be prepared to give the council a “ballpark” cost to update the system.

Parks director Steve Ibbotson said he’ll give an overview of ongoing and planned projects, and recommendations for renovations at older parks and a proposed new playground at Bainbridge Park.

Permits/inspections director Bart Castleberry said his office could use a more modern electronic filing and records system, but otherwise said he’ll have little to report.

Scott Grummer, CDBG program manager, will give updates on the Markham and Pine Street redevelopment/rehabilitation projects.

At the last work session, held on April 1, city finance director Tyler Winningham “reiterated the fact that we had to cut $3 million out [of this year’s budget]” to come up with a balanced budget — on paper, at least — “and remind them of what we did have to cut and get that fresh on their minds so that they can think about addressing it.”

2014’s “bare bones” budget means that any unexpected cost, including machinery breaking or accidents, will put the city budget in the red, meaning that reserves will have to be tapped.

At the April 1 work session, Winningham presented the council with options “that would help in years when sales tax is weak; so we don’t have to rely so heavily on sales.” These included raising the franchise fees (essentially taxes on utility service) on Conway Corp. electricity from 2.5 to 4.25% and creating a tax on water/wastewater utility at the same rate.

Winningham said that another option in addition to franchise fee increases would be increasing city property tax millage.

The city’s budget is tight this year because of “flat” sales tax income in 2013. The city’s financial philosophy assumes some degree of yearly retail sales tax growth, according to Winningham, and when that growth does not come to pass we get budgets like this year’s.

(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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