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Walker debuts E’town budget

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2011-12 plan closely mirrors previous budget figures

By Marty Finley

Elizabethtown Mayor Tim Walker presented a budget proposal Tuesday evening that could pose as a doppelganger to the 2010-11 budget, separated by only $200,000.

The $57.5 million budget dips just under the $57.7 million plan approved last year and includes a $3.8 million deficit in the general fund that will be offset by reserves, which Finance Director Steve Park estimated at $22 million.

Once total capital improvements are included — the wastewater treatment plant expansion, construction of two sewer outfall lines and completion of the Elizabethtown Sports Park — the budget bulks up to about $85 million.

Park said it made more sense to borrow from reserves to shore up the difference in the general fund rather than add additional debt — especially considering the city still will have roughly $18 million left in reserves.

Walker echoed Park in his budget message.

“With our large cash reserves, it was deemed more prudent to essentially borrow from reserves rather than take on any additional debt service and this is especially true in today’s interest rate environment,” Walker said.

The budget includes $2.4 million in stormwater projects, including construction of a bridge at Freeman Creek and College Street Road approved Tuesday at roughly $1 million, aimed to reduce flooding for nearby residents. Additional repairs will come in channel improvements along Hawkins Drive and construction of a basin in the Henon Lane area.

In response to exasperated Poplar Drive residents, the city also plans to provide “temporary relief” to residents through the city’s infiltration/inflow program. Walker said surveys immediately will be launched to assess homeowners’ needs in the area.

“We realize there are several drainage issues in the city that need attention, but all of these areas cannot be addressed at once,” Walker said. “It is doubtful that problems that were evidenced this past April and the first few days of May when the city received over 21 inches of rain in a 33-day period can be completely solved, but our efforts will be focused toward solving as many of these problems as possible.”

Walker said the city plans to address some smaller projects in-house, and $1.1 million will be appropriated in this budget for street construction, including culvert and drainage repairs on Nicholas Street, a culvert replacement in the Haycraft area and an extension of Towne Drive to Veterans Way.

The planning department also will administer $310,000 in Housing and Urban Development funds for improvements in the Haycraft neighborhood and $275,000 will be allocated for downtown redevelopment efforts.

Walker also said the city plans to issue the second series of bonds for the Elizabethtown Sports Park this summer at $10 million. The first series, also approved at $10 million, was issued last August.

Walker projected the park will finish under budget, meaning the last issue will total less than the anticipated $9 million. Instead, he said the final series of bonds should fall around $5 million, barring significant change orders or cost increases.

The recreation department also has requested money to partially staff the park for maintenance once it is completed. Money also will be allocated for a portable stage at Pritchard Community Center, $700,000 for tennis court construction at Freeman Lake Park and irrigation enhancement at the American Legion Park par 3 golf course. Another $500,000 has been requested for improvements to the proposed Elizabethtown Nature Park, which will house the Hardin County Veterans Tribute.

Additionally, the city plans to hire three more patrolmen for the Elizabethtown Police Department, who will be trained during the budget year and ready for patrol next year, Walker said. The city also will work with Hardin County Schools to place an officer at Central Hardin High School. Walker said the Hardin County Schools Board has agreed to reimburse the city for the days the officer is at the school. The city also will replace seven vehicles through its fleet replacement program and equip each vehicle with mobile data terminals so officers can access multiple databases remotely.

The proposal also includes $800,000 for the city’s paving program, a $40,000 increase from last year that is made possible by $400,000 from the general fund combined with money from the Municipal Aid Road Fund, according to the report.

Full-time city employees are expected to receive a 3 percent wage increase, while the mayor and city council members will receive a 1.5 percent increase.

“The city is extremely fortunate in that it has a strong financial base that has enabled it to weather the recent economic storm that the nation and our community have been facing,” Walker said. “The city has realized the value of its reserves both literally and figuratively in the past years as it dealt with an ice storm, flooding and felt the repercussions of a recession. It is imperative that we position the city of Elizabethtown to be able to provide the amenities of a first-class community to all of our existing citizens and our new neighbors.”

General Fund Appropriations
General government — $5,689,520
Public Safety — $7,010,373
Public Works — $6,213,915
Recreation — $6,683,047
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Drug task force — $273,000
Police department — $5,548,572
Parking meter— $34,894
Fire department— $1,021,283
Public safety garage— $132,624

IN OTHER NEWS

  • Elizabethtown City Council approved a bid by Haydon Bridge Co. at $1,098,495 for the College Street Road Bridge at Freeman Creek project. Robert Bush, director of stormwater management, said the proposal was the lowest of the bids and fell in line with cost estimates. Bush said the roughly 80-foot bridge will help to free up flows in the areas by replacing culverts that were serving to retain water and caused flooding.
  • City officials approved street and drainage improvements along North Black Branch Road, authorizing the low bid from McNutt Construction at $386,681. Bush said the work includes creation of a regional detention basin to clamp down flows in the area causing repetitive flooding along the roadway, as well as new piping and an overall improvement that will reroute flows and create a cleaner system. As part of the project, a portion of North Black Branch Road will be rebuilt to city standards, Bush said, which will include curbs and gutters, new sidewalks and storm sewers.
  • The council approved acquisition of property at 1001 Hawkins Drive from the Clifford Family Trust at $81,000. Bush said the acquisition is one of two planned to move two local businesses out of flood-prone areas near Hawkins Drive. The city is negotiating with the second property owner. By purchasing the properties and demolishing the structures, Bush said the city will free up storage space in a nearby basin and save hundreds of thousands of dollars when the city makes larger drainage improvements near Hawkins Drive. 

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.