Meeting in regular session Tuesday evening, the Park Hills City Council discussed annual budgetary concerns and passed several ordinances.
Following the meeting’s opening prayer, the council observed a moment of silence in memory of the victims of Sept. 11, 2001.
The council then held a public hearing to gain public input regarding a request for the city to partially vacate an alley located at 200 Simmons Street. Hearing no public input, the city then considered and passed an ordinance officially vacating the requested portion of the unimproved public alley at that location.
Beginning his report to the council, City Administrator Mark McFarland gave the council members information about the costs related to renovating the city’s municipal pool, as opposed to replacing it entirely as has been recently discussed.
“We received our first bid on the pool renovation,” McFarland said. “That was a big topic last month. Our first bid came from Mid-America Pool Renovation, Inc. The renovation came in at $621,780. Dooley [Politte, Parks and Recreation Director] is out looking for additional people to come in and look at the pool for more bids, but that was our first one.”
McFarland also provided the council with a sketch of a proposed splash pad, saying he would still like the council to consider replacing the pool entirely.
“Our idea is to put it on the April ballot as a bond issue,” McFarland said. “If the people want it, it will happen and if they don’t, it won’t. Dooley believes that we can get another year out of the pool, but he would like to have it closed at least one day a week so they can maintain the pool’s chemicals and cleaning.”
He added that there would not be any negative financial consequences resulting from closing the pool from a day a week next season, and that if the bond issue were pursued, the plan would be to begin construction at the end of next year’s season.
Moving on to budgetary concerns, McFarland said he had recently asked the city’s department heads to take hard looks at their budgets and to each attempt to trim 15 percent from their total budgets.
“I asked them to look at their current budgets from ’17-’18, and to see if they could strip 15 percent off of their budget,” he said. “My goal was for them to look at their budgets, see if they could cut it off and if everyone could cut 15 percent, we’d be at the $11.7 million and that would be a balanced budget.”
McFarland said despite the best efforts, none were able to trim a full 15 percent from their budgets. He said after the business transacted at Tuesday’s meeting, he and city staff would get to work on having a prepared budget for passage at the Sept. 25 meeting of the council.
The council was also asked by McFarland if it wished to continue with plans to place GPS tracking devices on all city vehicles, in addition to those already placed on police vehicles. He said he had received three bids, with the lowest being from Linxup, which currently provides the service for the police vehicles, at a cost of $17.99 per month, per GPS unit with the actual devices being free with the signing of a two-year contract.
There are 31 additional city vehicles that would have the GPS tracking devices installed, which would come at a cost of approximately $6,700 per year.
Councilman Tom Reed asked McFarland if the tracking of police vehicles had seemed to be beneficial thus far. McFarland said it had been, as the city can view where the police vehicles had been at any given time, in order to more efficiently make use of city time and to address complaints or comments from residents about officers’ whereabouts.
In council discussion, Reed said that he had been in touch with a St. Louis-based company that specializes in leak detection and could potentially be useful in diagnosing the problems being experienced at the municipal pool.
Following council discussion, Mayor Daniel Naucke presented a proclamation recognizing the St. Francois County Health Coalition’s Farmer’s Marker Voucher Program, which the council approved.
McFarland next presented the proposed insurance plan for city employees for the 2018-2019 year, which he said reflected some changes from the previous year.
“There are some changes to the insurance policy for the employees,” he said. “Our stop-loss is being moved from $35,000 to $40,000. What that means is that we will pay up to $35,000 as opposed to the $40,000 before the stop-loss kicks in. We’ve only had five people hit that this year. It saved us a lot of money on each individual premium — the higher we go with that, the lower the premiums get.”
He additionally said that the proposed insurance plan includes a 5 percent increase in premium cost to city employees, although the city’s very low deductible of $500 would be maintained. He said that for a single individual on city insurance that increase would amount to about $5 per week.
Councilman Adam Bowers asked if the premium increase had been compared with the proposed cost of living wage increase that the council would next be considering, to ensure that the additional cost would not outweigh the potential raise, leaving employees at a net loss.
City Clerk Teri Richardson said that would depend upon each employee’s particular insurance coverage and salary rate, although there has been no significant raise to employee premiums for four years and there have been annual raises over that same period.
The council voted to approved the insurance plan, then moved on to the approval of the cost of living wage increases for 2018-2019.
“The cost of living nationwide is running from about 2.5 percent to 3 percent, with some saying it’s a little higher,” McFarland said. “Last year we have a cost of living increase of 2 percent to employees, and I’m recommending that we do that again.”
McFarland said the 2 percent increase to all city employees would amount to a $68,000 increase to the budget. The council approved the 2 percent wage increase for city employees.
Next, McFarland presented a proposed agreement with Cochran Engineering for contracted engineering services for the city.
“We put out bids about half a month ago for a city engineer,” McFarland said. “We’ve gone through all the applications and qualifications and sent off for rates from different ones. We’ve come to the conclusion that we would like to hire Cochran Engineering Services to be our city engineer.”
The council approved the agreement with Cochran Engineering.
The council lastly approved an agreement with the Central School District to provide an addition school resource officer, with the district providing $40,000 toward the officer’s annual salary and the city providing the officer’s uniform, equipment and vehicle as with other officers.
In other business, the council also approved the Downtown Park Hills Association’s annual request to use the municipal parking lot on West Main Street for its Oct. 31 Trunk ‘n Treat event.
Jacob Scott is a reporter with the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3616 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.