Licking County News

City Council drops parks coordinator from 2014 budget

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Pataskala City Council on Dec. 16 approved the city's 2014 budget, which eliminates the parks coordinator's position.

The general-fund budget for 2014 is $1.7 million and the total budget is $42.5 million.

Three of eight proposed amendments to the budget legislation were approved.

City Council members Bernard Brush, Mike Compton and Mike Fox suggested most of the amendments, having submitted changes to the budget Dec. 12.

Fox said the proposed changes could reduce the budget by $591,000, by eliminating the parks coordinator position, eliminating the part-time zoning inspector position, reducing the law director's salary by $12,718 and removing funds for parks studies.

The other proposed amendments were to remove funding for the Conine Park leisure trail, Broad Street sidewalk study and Broad and Main streets rights-of-way studies; reduce funds for a website upgrade; remove funds to pave the lower parking lot at Municipal Park; and increase funding to upgrades to Pataskala City Hall's entrances.

Fox said the money saved could be distributed as follows: $75,000 to the parks and recreation fund, with another $15,000 dedicated to match any park grants; $200,000 to debt service; and $291,000 for road improvements.

Planning and zoning director Eric Fischer defended the part-time zoning inspector's position held by Casey Kesman, saying Kesman could cover for the zoning clerk and for the full-time zoning inspector as needed and is helping to administer the newly created community reinvestment area, which provides funds for housing and business rehabilitation.

The parks coordinator position held by Bryan Harris was eliminated in an amendment proposed by City Council President Dan Hayes, with a second from Pat Sagar.

Hayes' amendment was to take $40,000 from the planning and zoning budget for studies of two parks and eliminate $21,321 in the parks and recreation budget which paid for the parks coordinator. His amendment will transfer those funds to the general fund, allocated to parks.

Hayes said the city's park advisory board could then recommend how City Council should use the money.

The amendment was approved 6-1, with Brush voting against it.

Sagar serves as liaison to the parks and recreation advisory board.

"I just think that the park advisory board can do the work that Bryan was doing and it will just be easier for the parks and recreation department to be run by the advisory board rather than having a coordinator," Sagar said after the meeting. "We've done that for years and years and years and never had a real coordinator before.

"I think the parks and recreation board is more than capable of running the programs and making sure things like soccer fields are mowed."

Harris said he understands City Council has to make decisions about allocating financial resources and he will continue to look for a position in which he can use his background in higher education and sports administration.

He said he was able to implement a mowing schedule and equipment maintenance schedule for the six parks in the city.

Overall, City Council agreed with only two of the seven amendments proposed by Brush, Compton or Fox.

Council agreed unanimously to dedicate $7,000 instead of $5,000 to install automatic door openers compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act on the front and rear entrances of Pataskala City Hall.

Fox, who owns Fox's Locks and Security and who proposed the amendment, said the city could not complete the project with only $5,000.

City Council also agreed unanimously to remove $150,000 to pave the lower lot of Municipal Park and put the money in the general fund so it can be used to improve roads.

In other budget-related matters:

• City Council voted 5-2 to table an ordinance that would increase wages for nonunion employees by 3 percent in 2014 and 2015. Brush and Sagar cast the two dissenting votes.

Brush proposed an amendment to change the increase to 2 percent both years but it was not voted on before the legislation was tabled.

Pataskala is negotiating with its union employees and does not yet have agreements in place.

Finance Director James Nicholson said the budget for 2014, as approved, includes a 3 percent increase for nonunion employees.

• City Council agreed unanimously against a $5,000 salary increase for Police Chief Bruce Brooks.

The increase was proposed by Sagar and seconded by Bryan Lenzo following executive session.

Mayor Steve Butcher said it was voted down unanimously after a brief discussion.

Nicholson said Brooks earns $79,458 annually and the city pays $33,070 in benefits for him.

The budget, as approved, includes a 3 percent increase for him, which would increase his wages by $2,383.74.

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