Tuesday Dec 09 2008
Cash strapped city seeks options
By: Don Chaddock/The Telegraph
Pre-approved $78k outreach program yanked from agenda
It's a new day for city staff seeking what was once easy funding. A previously approved outreach project was removed from the city council consent agenda during the meeting because of a $78,000 price tag. Councilman Andy Morin said he couldn't support paying that kind of money to a public relations firm, at least not now. The firm, Circle Point Inc., was to be paid the funds over a two-year period for public outreach regarding the city's water meter installation plans. "I have a real hard time supporting this," Morin said. "I think you’ve already done a great job doing (outreach). This comes out to about $78,000 worth of work. … It almost seems to be more than we need at the moment.” Morin went on to volunteer his own time to help offset the cost. “I just think there is an opportunity here with some very simple things done within the departments to do this kind of work. … I’m even willing to volunteer to attend meetings,” he said. “We need to spend as little as possible." Mayor Steve Miklos agreed. "I’m going to borrow a phrase from Jeff (Starsky), ‘These are extraordinary times that need extraordinary thinking,'" he said. "I can’t support this dollar amount, not in this economic time in the city." Utilities Director Ken Payne pointed out that this project had already been approved. Starsky said times have changed. "When we approved it, it was different economic times," Starsky said. Defending the plan, Payne reminded the council the money isn't an up-front cost to the city. "Remember that this program, the $78,000, is over 2 years," Payne said. Miklos said now was the time for creative thinking. "We have to look at things differently," he said. Councilwoman Kerri Howell, who lives in one of the areas slated to receive water meters, said the city needs to provide outreach of some sort. "I think we ought to have some public meetings because some of these neighborhoods are older people who’ve lived in these houses for 50 years and have never had meters," she said. Morin and Howell said they would be willing to help hold public meetings for residents affected by the water meter installation plan. Councilman Ernie Sheldon told Payne he believes the outreach should be done by city staff. "You don’t want a consultant with no relationship with the city (doing outreach)," Sheldon said. "I’d rather see you or one of your engineers knocking on my door." The council voted unanimously to remove the item from the consent agenda and asked Payne to return with a trimmed down version of the plan. "From the budgetary constraints, we need alternatives," Miklos said. As reported in The Telegraph, Folsom is facing an $8.4 million budget deficit and is considering eliminating up to 80 city staff positions when a new budget is expected to be presented to the council in January. Don Chaddock may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.