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Sidney’s City Council discusses a variety of budget options for 2022-2023

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Sidney’s City Council discusses a variety of budget options for 2022-2023

Mayor Ken Brown presided over his first official meeting as Sidney’s new mayor at a special meeting on Jan. 3. The purpose of the meeting was to determine teamwork goals and discuss the budget for the next fiscal year, and there were many discussion items to tackle.

Mayor Ken Brown presided over his first official meeting as Sidney’s new mayor at a special meeting on Jan. 3. The purpose of the meeting was to determine teamwork goals and discuss the budget for the next fiscal year, and there were many discussion items to tackle. 

To begin the evening, the council first approved to open a public hearing concerning the city’s proposed amendment to the current fiscal year, 2021-2022. The amendment included a revenue increase due to American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and an expenditure increase due to public safety equipment repairs, increased insurance premiums and training for new staff and council. The difference is $70,750 in excess revenue. There was no public comment so the council approved the motion to close the hearing and approve Resolution 2022-1.

In the open discussion that followed, the council members made a list of their teamwork goals and who would follow up on information concerning that topic. It included information about increasing housing units, a change in monthly meeting format, law enforcement, roads, sewer, and city events.

When discussing major projects and concerns, the council talked about the streets that needed primary consideration for replacement or repair and the necessity of prioritizing the list. They agreed that the water project was the most pressing matter as well as hiring a grade 2 water operator. The council determined that the city’s immediate needs also included getting on top of the hire for the swimming pool manager and lifeguards, job descriptions and the updated rules and regulations. Brown thought that a message board on the square was something they could do to get city and council information to the public. Council member Drew LeMaster added that getting the new city attorney hired was another important concern. Brenda Benedict, deputy clerk, told the council that there is $100,000-$130,000 of ARPA funds left. The council discussed the work that needed to be done on the sewers and streets. Council members will also be fact finding to report back what other essential work is needed in that regard.

The city clerk’s office needs updated phones and a new lease for their copier. There was a brief discussion on the Internet proposals to make a change for speed and reliability in several places within the city, including the city offices. There is also a hope to improve the lighting in a variety of areas by replacing current bulbs with LED lighting.

There was considerable discussion about equipment for the city works department. Jason Rhea, the new public works director, was present to offer information to the council.

“First, the water line locator isn’t working, and we will need to replace it,” he said. “I included bids in your packet; it will cost $4,000-5,000 to replace. There isn’t much difference between a used and a new model but I included a bid for that, too.”

Rhea also described needs for vehicles: “I know it has been discussed, but I don’t think we need to replace the Ford but it does need a new bed. I looked into that, and it’s going to cost around $6000 with installation. I would rather spend $6000 than spending money on a new truck.”

He also indicated a need for a hitch on the utility truck: “When we start the new plant, we won’t have the capabilities to haul water unless we get a hitch on that. I found that it’s going to cost $500 max to have one put on.”

Rhea asked the council to look at the examples and prices in their packet for the possibility of purchasing a backhoe and a skid steer attachment for the tractor they currently have. LeMaster agreed but said he would like to see the possibility of an actual excavator in the future because he knows how much the city could use it.   

Rhea also recommended the purchase of two tablets and one auto-read gun for meter reading.  “I would suggest getting tablets and getting them hooked up so the unit stays in the truck and is not going out door to door.  We already have the software, and if we get another auto-read gun, we can send information right to the city clerk’s office. It reduces human error.” LeMaster added, “Another thing we’re going to have to figure out is how we are going to budget for meters and MXU’s.” The Meter Transceiver Unit is a radio signal device that permits off-site meter reading via radio signals. The city has replaced around 70 water meters but there are approximately 400 more homes that need to be updated.  

Rhea added, “Once the new hire is complete for the water plant, the needs may be adjusted and/or easier to determine. We will have more clarity after that time.”

The council was very open to the suggestions and equipment needs for the next fiscal year. Council member Anne Travis asked Rhea to prioritize what he wants so the council can make better decisions for the city works department. 

Library director Riley Moreland asked the council to add the heating and cooling system to their budget. She reminded the council that the system at the library is 16-17 years old, “It’s had repairs the last two years and is going to start costing us more. I had a bid of $30,000 but that was a couple of years ago.” Moreland also stated that the concrete work around the library is starting to show wear and tear and there is a section at the bottom of the wall by the ramp that is starting to erode. “I don't know what it will cost to repair but that is something that will need attention soon. Those are two things that are not typical budget items, but I felt they needed to be brought to your attention that we need to be thinking about in the coming year or so. Otherwise, everything budget wise is about the same.”  

The council discussed the events that they would like to see in the next year, whether new or continued. Those included an improved city clean-up day, movie night, Sidney Days, and a celebration for Sidney’s birthday. It was suggested by Brown that committees be formed for the bigger events and LeMaster recommended new ways to generate interest and let the community know the committees.

Don Benedict, in his first official meeting as council member, talked about long term needs and wants for the city parks. Those include work on the basketball court, wireless technology, cameras, and power concerns. 

As the meeting was wrapping up, council member Kenneth Meyer reminded the council that it’s going to be important for them to focus on prioritizing. “We have to look at the bottom line and recognize that we can’t do it all. We have to determine what is a necessity and go from there.”

The next Sidney City Council meeting is Monday, Jan. 10.


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