Junction City council wrangles with budget, mentions possible sale of water department

June 04, 2004|LIZ MAPLES

JUNCTION CITY - Just when the budget situation here looked like it could get no worse, it did.

Payment on the loan it took out last year to pay bills is more than the city expects to collect from its new occupational tax. It's already cut a police officer. Others on the three-officer department are reportedly stressed and overworked.

Then there's the sale. Everybody knows, but nobody wants to talk about a potential sale of the water system to Danville. It is widely known that the two cities have been in closed-door negotiations for more than a year, but nothing has been made public. As the city attempts to budget for next year, it has gotten difficult for the City Council to talk around it.

At the first public budget meeting Thursday, council members let it slip, but then quickly hushed themselves when they realized that a reporter was present.


It is nearly impossible not to talk about it.

Harmon leases his tools to the city for $1 a year

The city owns few tools. Public Works Director Carl Harmon has always used his own tools, and leased them to the city for $1 a year for insurance purposes.

The ensuing discussion was between the lines.

City council members were told that the city still had to budget $31,750 to buy tools and supplies for a maintenance department. "When that situation gets all cleared up ," said Mayor G.G. Harmon, who is no relation to Carl Harmon, not finishing his sentence.

But the mayor was obviously implying that if Danville buys the water system then Harmon might not work for Junction City anymore, and so the city wouldn't be able to use his tools.

The city plans to create a maintenance department. Why? Presumably because there will be no water department, but the council members aren't saying so. They budgeted $24,000 to pay for a maintenance foreman's salary and benefits. Why? Presumably because if there is no water department then the city couldn't pay for the position out of that budget.

The council members never saw or discussed a water department budget.

Gipson upset about police, fire department cuts

Police and Fire Chief Jimmy Gipson was upset that his departments' budgets were cut. He said that his police officer and firefighters have to have equipment, turnout gear and a bulletproof vest, and if he doesn't get the grants he applied for then there would be no money for that.

The expiration date on the assistant chief's helmet is 1995, and there are busted hoses, and guns and uniforms that need to be replaced. The police department already lost an officer after the city faced a budget crisis last year.

"I just hope I get that grant," Gipson said.

"It'd be a blessing," G.G. Harmon said.

Councilman Jim Douglas was upset that there weren't more cuts in the budget.

"We talked about cuts, and we haven't had any cuts," he said, referring to promises made when the council passed an occupational tax.

Gipson suggested that the cuts were demanded by a few people in the city, and weren't the best thing for the city.

"Jimmy, we owe money and we got to figure out how to pay it," Douglas said.

Gipson then asked how much the city would get for the water department.

Council members quickly shut the conversation down.

G.G. Harmon told the council to take the budget home and study it.

Goode upset about being left out of budget process

Council member Donnie Goode was upset that the entire council didn't help put together the budget. Council members Roberta Zeller and Connie Vernon met with the mayor to draft a budget.

When Goode said he was upset that no one told him about the workshop. Vernon said that he was always out of town. Goode recently missed two meetings in a row.

Goode walked out of the meeting. "How are they going to propose a budget?" Goode asked outside the meeting in the fire truck bay. "The people elected six people, not two."

"We passed all those taxes and it was supposed to take care of our problems, but we're finding out it's not," he said, pointing out that he wasn't on the council at the time the tax was passed.

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