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City board approves first reading of budget ordinance

by Danny Wade

Humboldt citizens will not see their city property taxes increased in the upcoming fiscal year after the city board approved the first reading of Ordinance 2018-02, adopting the 2018-19 city budget. A second reading must be approved before the ordinance is passed.

Aldermen were given a budget summary sheet that highlighted some of the items within the new budget.

One key part of next year’s $9.5 million budget is a 3-percent pay increase for all city employees.

The city budget includes Humboldt City Schools’ and Humboldt Utilities’ budgets as well.

There is no new debt in the 2018-19 budget and the property tax rate will remain $3.04 per $100 assessed value.

A new expenditure account has been created for drug testing. The board approved a new drug testing policy recently to be compliant with insurance.
The Humboldt Senior Citizens Center will get a new van, as well as repairs to the roof and a new sign.

The Humboldt Police Department will continue renovating offices in the old mayor’s office in the Municipal Building. The budget calls for funding SRT (special response team) gear and training, plus three new patrol cars for the police department.

The Humboldt Fire Department will add $5,000 for training, purchase four sets of turnout gear, repair the antique fire truck, purchase a new SUV and construct a new mini park beside Fire Station #1.

Rabies Control will receive $10,000 for maintenance to renovate the dog pound.

The Humboldt Municipal Airport will receive new fencing and add a security system. The terminal will be renovated, runway lights will be repaired and a new gator ATV will be purchased.

The former Boals Grocery Store building on the corner of Central Ave. and Mitchell St. will be renovated for the Humboldt Street Department and will become the department’s new office. Gibson County donated the property to Humboldt after the county took possession due to back taxes.

Other street department budget funding includes hiring three new employees, purchasing a gator with sprayer. There is $100,000 in the budget for paving.

Rose Hill Cemetery’s shed will receive a new roof.

Humboldt Parks & Recreation Department will be repairing the roof on the lower part of Stigall gym and will purchase a tractor with a loader.

From the Narcotics Fund, four new body cams and a radar unit will be purchased.

In the State Street Aid Fund, the city will purchase a new street sweeper.

The budget ordinance passed the first reading unanimously with a 4-0 vote. Alderman Don Graves was unable to attend the meeting. He was attending the TML Summer Conference held in Knoxville, Tenn. this year.

In other city board action:

•The board approved budget amendments to the 2017-18 fiscal budget by a vote of 3-1 with Alderlady Donna Johnson casting a nay vote. She did not elaborate on her decision to vote against the budget amendments.

•The second reading of Ordinance 2018-01, abandoning part of a city street, was approved. A portion of Crenshaw St. will now be used for St. James Baptist Church’s new construction and for their operations.

Mayor Sikes noted the church owns property on both sides of the road and will now be able to tie both properties together.

•Resolution 2018-10 was passed to fund a 2017 Community Development Block Grant. Mayor Sikes explained the grant would fund remodeling the sewer plant and extending it.

He noted the project is part of Tyson Foods coming to the Gibson County Industrial Park and all the utilities that will be needed. Sikes said the utility department keeps applying for grants and getting approved.

City treasurer, Kim Hadley, said the original bid was projected at $760,000 but actually came in at $930,448.

All the grants have to run through the city’s budget, Mayor Sikes added.

•The board approved hiring Markeith Wade upon the recommendation of Police Chief Reynard Buchanan. Wade has passed the National Police Selection Test, physical agility test, medical exam, drug screening and psychological evaluation.

Chief Buchanan stated in his letter to the board that Wade appears to be an excellent candidate for the position of police officer and will be an asset to the department.

•The board received a resignation letter from firefighter D’Marco Collins of the Humboldt Fire Department.

Alderlady Johnson voted to table the resignation until the June 25 meeting. She said there is other information she would like to share before taking a vote.
Alderman Bob Pruett noted Collins’ resignation letter was submitted May 9 and he has not worked since then.

Mayor Sikes took Johnson’s request and said it is something that does not need to be discussed in the open meeting.

•The board voted to turn over the 2016 real property taxes and 2017 personal property taxes to the court for collection. Mayor Sikes said the city is in good shape on delinquent taxes. He noted it took five years to get caught up.

•A request was presented to seek a Dog Park Dash Grant for $25,000 at Mary Ann Carter Park. If approved the park would receive fencing, watering stations, trash receptacles, benches, waste stations, pooper scoopers, landscaping, plumbing, water meter, concrete and supplies, signage and new parking.

•Lillian Seward, a Humboldt citizen, voiced her concerns about drainage ditches in her neighborhood. She said there is grass growing as tall a she is, plus there are trees growing in the ditches.

Seward asked the city to hire a contractor to come in and figure out what to do to have water draining correctly.

Board member Leon McNeal, who is the alderman in Seward’s precinct, echoed Seward’s concerns. He said there are several streets in his district that flood.

Alderman James Shivers said the city could be doing a better job of mowing the ditches.

Mayor Marvin Sikes admitted the city had not done a very good job of keeping the ditches cleaned. He noted the city just purchased a new trackhoe with a ditch attachment. The mayor said the city will hire three new workers and two of those will be working on the new trackhoe and other equipment.

Other citizens spoke their piece about water drainage issues and flooding on the west side of town.

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