By Joe Lewis - Staff Writer
Feb. 19, 2014 —
Budget talks dominated the discussion at Tuesday night’s monthly meeting of the Olive Hill City Council.
Members of the City Council sparred with one another about how the utility company’s profits from the past fiscal year should be spent.
At the beginning of the meeting, the city’s audit report was presented and it was revealed that the utility company posted a $102,000 profit during the past fiscal year.
Under state law, those funds can be transferred to the city’s general fund for unrestricted use.
Mayor Kenny Fankell then presented a budget amendment intended to transfer $60,000 from the utility fund to the general fund in order to make up for budget cuts earlier in the year.
“We’ve had the worst winter in years and the street department is $8,000 in the hole. We need to put this money back from where we took it earlier in the year,” said Fankell.
Council member Glenn Meade disagreed with that use of funds, recommending that the money be reinvested into the city’s dated electric infrastructure.
“If you keep pushing the limits of this system, you’re going to wind up having a catastrophe and the entire city will be without electricity,” said Meade. “We need to bring reliability to our utilities.”
Randy Tackett also spoke in opposition of transferring the profits from the utility company to the general fund.
“We set a budget and we have to stick to it. You can’t spend money that you don’t have” he said.
Tackett, Meade and Enoch Hicks voted against the budget amendment, while Matt Kiser, Allen Stapleton and Jerry Callihan voted in favor of it.
Fankell was unable to break the tie, however, because the budget amendment was presented as an emergency ordinance. Emergency measures require a two-thirds majority vote of the City Council in order to pass.
The Mayor and Council then spent nearly an hour and a half debating the matter.
Fankell warned that he would be forced to lay off an employee from the street department if money isn’t transferred into the general fund.
“How are you going to explain to a man that’s worked here for 15 years that he no longer has a job,” said city employee Justin Dixon.
“We were forced to cut the budget when we didn’t really want to. For once, Olive Hill has caught a break with this influx of money, but we can’t seem to get anything done with it,” said Jerry Callihan. “Once again we have managed to turn something that should have been easy to figure out into a three ring circus.”
Meade held firm to his position, however, warning that continued neglect of the utility infrastructure eventually would have disastrous consequences.
“In the end, I’ll be proved right,” he said.
Faced with the possibility of laying off an employee, it was Hicks who budged when the motion to approve the budget amendment was put forth a second time.
“I don’t want anyone to lose their job. I know what that’s like,” he said.
“Without our city workers, we wouldn’t even have a city,” said Callihan.
Because the budget amendment was passed under emergency conditions, both readings were conducted at the meeting and the new budget was immediately enacted.
Joe Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 286-4201.