Council passes budget, congratulates city horticulturist

Demopolis’ City Council passed a $9.67 million budget for Fiscal Year 2013-14 at Thursday’s meeting, including a full allocation to Bryan Whitfield Memorial Hospital.

The city has contributed $125,000 to the hospital for a number of years, but the 2013-14 budget’s first draft reduced that amount by $25,000. During discussion, council member Harris Nelson made a motion to restore the $25,000, taking the funds from the budget’s $32,000 surplus.

After Charles Jones’ second, a brief discussion ensued in which council member Bill Meador and Mayor Mike Grayson expressed concern about trimming the city’s budget too close.

The discussion also centered on the city’s support for the hospital’s Labor and Delivery unit, which has been targeted for possible closure in recent years.

“If L&D is depending on $25,000, then it’s probably going to close anyway,” Meador said. “I can’t speak to whether this is going to make or break L&D.”

Nelson countered, “The $25,000 may not be a whole department, but it probably is somebody’s job.”

“I know the hospital is very, very important to the community, but if I’m not mistaken, this was a shared agreement,” Meador said. “I believe the agreement was $125,000 for five years. We’ve gone several years beyond that. I’m in support of helping the hospital, because they’ve been cut so much by insurance and the government, but our budget is so tight….It’s going to be hard even with a $32,000 surplus.”

Grayson added, “I agree with Bill. I wish we could give (the hospital) $200,000, but we’ve asked the people over here (motioning to the city department heads) to cut their budgets. I just don’t see how we can do it.”

The Mayor also pointed out that the city gave an additional $100,000 two years ago to assist Labor and Delivery, in addition to the $125,000 annual allotment.

Ultimately, Nelson, Jones, Nathan Hardy and Cleveland Cole voted to add the $25,000 back to the hospital’s allotment, with Grayson and Meador voting no.

Grayson, noticeably frustrated, then made a motion to add $92,000 back to the budget for the University of West Alabama Higher Education Center at the Demopolis Sports-Plex “since we’re not concerned about the surplus,” the Mayor said.

His motion died when it did not receive a second.

The council then unanimously approved the overall budget.

In other matters, the council congratulated horticulturist Barbara Blevins for the city’s recent national first place finish at the America in Bloom competition in Orlando.

Blevins told the gathering that Demopolis won first place in the 7,000-12,000 population category. Demopolis competed with cities from Ohio and North Carolina that are much larger population-wise, she said.

“I want everyone know that we didn’t do this alone,” she said, thanking donors from the community, businesses, city administration and the other department heads. “This really makes a difference in Demopolis,” she added.

In other matters, Daretter McKinney approached the council about her property at Abe Brown Court, asking that the street’s name be changed back to Kauffman Alley. Grayson said the city would investigate and follow up with her, but added that the change has already been made and passed on to 911.

The council approved various public assembly requests, adopted revisions to the city’s personnel policy, and heard Grayson report that he will be meeting soon with engineers to seek additional funding for the port project.