BY DONNA WESTFALL
Seeking re-election is former Mayor and current Council member, Richard Enea. I asked Rich what he thought of his accomplishments over the last four years. He says, “Good. Blight was my number one goal and the city is cleaner than it was 4 years ago. Derelict properties are being demolished and/or burned down.”
Other issues concerning this former police officer are Crime: “It’s down and we should be back up to a 13th officer when a grant comes through this October.”
Next on his list is Quality of Life. “I want to see the Beach Front Park Projects done. That too will be grant funded and accomplished in sections. Basketball courts, outdoor theatre, dog park. For example, once the dog park is put in place, there will be partnerships with people to supply benches and other things.”
What about the Budget? He responded: “Three of our four budgets are balanced, and you can see it on the city’s website on the internet. The General Fund has $1 million and we’re building it back up. The water budget is up. We received a grant for $500,000 to retrofit a tank. That will keep water rates stable for years.”
The only part that doesn’t balance is the sewer fund. Here’s a bone of contention. Rich and I batted about the size and expansion component of the plant, the price tag and the rates.
First of all, I showed Rich copies of paperwork that shows the interest on the loan was to be deferred for the first four years when the State granted the extension from 20 to 30 years. He wasn’t aware or didn’t remember that. Annual repayment of the interest was supposed to start in 2015 at 2.4%. Did someone drop the ball? He’ll check.
Next, we spoke about the size and scope and expansion of the plant. Rich contends it’s the States’ fault for telling the City to build such a big plant due to anticipated growth over the next 20 years. I’m not so sure about that. I don’t know for certain who came up with such a big project, but I do know that ratepayers are still groaning over ever increasing rates. By all rights, developers were supposed to pay for the expansion of the plant, but since development is virtually nil, the ratepayers are on the hook. THE BONE OF CONTENTION. THE EXPANSION COMPONENT. One of these days we’ll dig into it properly and get it resolved. When it is resolved, then we need to discuss how the ratepayers will be reimbursed for paying more than their fair share.
We spoke about what ifs. What if the State doesn’t back down from eliminating the interest rate? Rich believes that the State could withhold property and sales tax from the City. If those two income sources are withheld, how will the city function? Previous threats of the State coming in and running the plant seem entirely unlikely.
Our economy: “The TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax = motels) is up. There are 624 business licenses issued. Big 5 came in. Little Ceasar’s is coming in, the Dollar Tree is expanding and taking over part of the old Shop Smart grocery store. Businesses are not closing.”
How about expenses being cut at the city? They are down to 59 full time employees and about 14 or 15 part-timers and seasonal employees, overall down from 71 full time last year.
Rich Enea is very optimistic about good things happening in our City and he’d like to be sitting on the city council in order to continue making these good things happen.