By Crystal Burns
The Rutherford Mayor and Board of Aldermen developed a plan to confront budget concerns at the town’s Nov. 16 meeting.
Mayor Sandy Simpson provided the board with estimates and options for paving Trenton Street (old Highway 45). The numbers were for information only, as the project must be put out for bids if pursued.
Simpson said there are no grants available for paving, but the town could apply for a USDA loan or a Tennessee Municipal Bond Fund loan. The bond fund offers a lower interest rate of 2.63%. Simpson said that officials at Centennial Bank in Rutherford said they would be interested in bidding on the loan to keep the money in town.
Simpson used the City of Dyer as an example for payments, saying the city financed about $600,000 of its $900,000 paving project for 12 years. Monthly payments are $1,200 a month.
Simpson said in order to afford the payments, the Rutherford needs to make cuts elsewhere. Her recommendation is to look at police staffing and have just one officer working each shift. Right now, there are two officers working the day shift.
“I can’t justify paying two officers for day shift when we can’t pave a road,” Simpson said. “What we’re paying on a salary, we could pay on a road.”
The town currently employs four full-time police officers, but Simpson said Chief Adam Branch wants the board to hire a fifth full-time officer to cut out using part-time help. Branch was unable to attend the Nov. 16 meeting.
Simpson said she had expressed her concerns to Branch as well and told him that the town needs to go back to one officer per shift.
Aldermen were concerned that Simpson’s plan was to base loan payments on the amount of tickets that officers write or that she intended to cut one officer. Aldermen Mike Hensley, Danny Parker, and Annie Edwards suggested the board hold a special called meeting to discuss the paving project and the police department when Branch could be present.
Simpson said she didn’t intend for the board to make an immediate decision but wanted aldermen to be aware of options.
“We can’t continue to ignore this road,” she said. “We’ve to crunch numbers and cut something somewhere.”
Dana Deem, the town’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) representative, said small towns everywhere deal with the same issues. He likened funding for big projects to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
The Rutherford board meets the third Monday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. All meetings are open to the public.