Council addresses Sunset, tables budget

The Demopolis City Council approved a plan to pave Sunset Road Tuesday evening, taking the next step in a measure that has long been on the entity’s agenda.

The council decided between three options regarding the paving of the road, opting for the most expensive but most effective of the three ventures.

The project will see the paving of about 1,500 feet of Sunset Road, a street that is home to approximately a dozen residences.

The council opted for a measure that will widen the road to approximately 18 feet and provide a surface that should last for quite some time. The cost of that project totals approximately $268,000, a figure that brought reservation from Councilman Bill Meador as it is in excess of the $228,000 initially budgeted for the project.

“I would make a motion that we table this two weeks and come back with our decision,” Meador said.

Meador’s motion to table the discussion gained little traction before Charles Jones Jr. stated his position that the council put the initiative in motion.

“This project has been on the table since two administrations back. At this point, I think we should just go ahead and bite the bullet and go with option one,” Jones said.

“I think we need to bite the bullet and get this project behind us,” Grayson added.

The council passed the measure by a 5-1 vote with Meador as the lone hold out.

The passage of the measure in addition to other concerns ultimately led to the council tabling its vote on the proposed city budget for the current fiscal year.

Councilman Mitchell Congress stated his desire that the allotted amount for city council training revert back to the $10,000 amount reflected in the FY2012 budget rather than the $5,000 allotment proposed in the budget that remains on the table.

The majority of the discussion over the budget revolved around totals assigned to the Demopolis Police Department, focusing primarily on the operational costs of DPD patrol cars and the newly added substation.

“I don’t see how the figures could be the same if we have more expenses than we had last year,” Congress said, questioning the department’s budget.

“Mitchell, what I am telling you is that this is what we pay department heads for is to manage the budget,” Grayson said. “That’s what we pay these folks for is to manage and be fiscally prudent in their managing.”

Jones then largely echoed the sentiments of Congress, citing his desire for more transparency in departmental budgets.

“What you’re telling me is that if I can cook the books so my bottom line comes out okay, you don’t have a problem what I’m doing,” Jones said, addressing Grayson. “I like the final number. I just want it to be reflective of what’s going on.”

Congress also questioned the spike in the budgeted amount for the city attorney, an amount he said increased approximately $42,000 since last year.

After brief deliberation over the matter, Jones pointed out that former city attorney Rick Manley – whose fees were paid under the previous budget referenced by Congress – did a great deal of pro bono work for Demopolis.

Congress also called into question the amount of money allotted to the horticulture department.

“I’m going to let the horticulture department to plant the flowers,” Grayson retorted.

“It’s our city. It’s not the horticulture department’s city,” Congress said.

The discussion ended when Meador’s motion to table the budget passed unanimously.

“I propose that we go back to the drawing board and, again, we table this for two weeks,” Meador said.

The council also observed that it is due to appoint a new member to the hospital board after the expiration of Dr. Maurice Fitz-Gerald’s term. Webb Tutt is also up for reappointment to the board.

The council had been set to vote between Jack Cooley and Thomas Moore regarding an open seat on the Demopolis Water and Sewer Board. That discussion ended with both names having been withdrawn.

“In the spirit of trying not to waste citizens’ time, I would like to withdraw Thomas Moore’s name,” Jones said.

“In that same spirit, I would like to withdraw Jack Cooley,” Grayson added.

New nominees for the open board position are Jay Reynolds and Dexter Jones. The council is set to vote between those two individuals at its next meeting.