“I want to go on the record as saying that there is no more important business facing this mayor and this council, than deciding our plan of action to put this town on a sound, long-term financial footing,” councilman Steve Medori said in a prepared statement at the meeting’s outset.
The council hopes to address those things directly in the coming week. Per Medori’s motion, the council voted to extend Argo’s FY09 budget until Tuesday, Feb. 9 – mayor Paul Jennings called a special work session of the council at 6 p.m., followed by a special-called meeting to address whether the budget might be extended for more time.
The council voted to extend the budget in November, December and January. Medori said he believes the “underlying problem” is the council’s inability to provide the town with a long-term financial solution.
“I think our real problem is that we don’t have the town on a firm financial footing,” he said. “That’s what we need to meet on, and work on, and come up with some alternatives, options and plans, to figure out how to solve our problem long-term. Especially now, that gambling revenue looks like it’s not gonna happen, maybe ever, but certainly not anytime soon.
“So I don’t think the problem is approving a budget, because I think we’re being very frugal with our money – we’re all very aware we don’t have much. I’m not worried we’re being extravagant; I don’t think that’s the problem. The problem is we haven’t focused on a long-term solution to fix the finances, given that gambling revenue is probably not gonna happen, and odds are the St. Clair County Commission is not gonna cough up another $100,000 (the Commission agreed to loan the town $100,000 for capital improvements).”
Medori’s motion passed with a 3-2 vote – council members Bill Leake and George Howell voted against it, while councilman Bill Rutledge abstained.
“When I made a motion to extend it in November, I never heard a word about a budget meeting,” Rutledge said. “When I made it again in December, I never heard another word about a budget meeting. I did it again in January, never heard another word about a budget meeting.
“Surely to God we didn’t think it was all just gonna go away; we kept extending it. I’m at a loss.”
Medori’s motion to extend came after Jennings asked three times for a motion to do that, with no response from the council. Jennings then declared, “We have no motion and we have no budget.”
“I have no problem whatsoever if it’s not extended again,” Jennings said. “The only thing I want everybody to realize is that if we do not extend it, it will require, every time a check needs to be written, we’ll have to have a special council meeting, until we pass the budget. Which kind of makes this come to a head and get it over with, if there’s any cuts that have to be done.
“I’ve got no problem either way. It needs to be over, because what we do is dig a bigger hole, every month we extend last year’s.”
Jennings didn’t set a specific time for the special called council meeting, only that it will take place following the council’s work session.
“Which may be 2 a.m.,” Leake said.
In other business, the council:
• Approved two separate zoning ordinance amendments, changing the Jenkins and Keith properties from high-density residential to agricultural.
• Approved a motion allowing Jennings to negotiate the installation of a guardrail and retaining wall at the new town hall, with costs not to exceed $3,500.
• Approved a resolution that would allow Trussville Utilities to remove 10 hydrants installed on U.S. 11 in commercial zones, at the mayor’s discretion. Jennings also held the first reading of a zoning ordinance amendment to that effect.
• Approved payment of bills in January in the amount of approximately $28,000.
• Approved the council minutes of the regular meeting on Monday, Jan. 4.