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Escanaba budget sessions get rolling

Public invited to day 2 of discussions

April 10, 2012
By Jenny Lancour ( , Daily Press

ESCANABA - Escanaba City Council covered a lot of ground during Monday's budget work session, reviewing many of the funds for the 2012-13 fiscal year including utilities, public safety, and public works.

Today's work session is expected to wrap up with discussions on the library, recreation department, marina, Downtown Development Authority, and other funds. Each meeting is open and the public is encouraged to offer input on the city's upcoming finances. The budget sessions are held at city hall.

City Manager Jim O'Toole began Monday's financial review with his budget message outlining revenues and expenditures and a fund balance. Proposed expenses are nearly $28 million with revenues of $30 million, based on funding projections.

The general fund is a piece of the pie at $7.5 million, including the usual $463,624 transfer of funds from the electric utility fund.

"The general fund budget - which supports many of the day-to-day activities of the city - is $7,458,546, representing a decrease of 2.5 percent from the previous year's budget," O'Toole noted.

Several department heads presented their individual budgets to council, starting with Electric Superintendent Mike Furmanski. An anticipated surplus of funds, related to different scenarios with the power plant, could prevent a possible rate increase, he said.

The facility is currently idled and being negotiated for sale to Escanaba Green Energy for $1.5 million. If the plant sells or if it does not sell, but the market requires it to operate, the city could see a $2 million surplus with zero operating costs, said Furmanski. Otherwise, if the plant just remains idle, there could be a $300,000 surplus, he said.

On the other hand, environmental re-mediation at the power plant property could cost nearly $4 million, Furmanski added.

Jeff Lampi, the new water/wastewater superintendent, presented his department's budget, including upcoming projects. The boiler heating the water plant needs to be replaced, he said. New water meters will be gradually installed throughout the city.

Privacy concerns will be researched on the new meters, since they can record water use amounts and sources at each location, said O'Toole.

Lampi informed council that needs at the wastewater plant include an upgraded security gate, lab equipment, and a replacement for the sludge truck.

Regarding the Public Safety Department, Director Ken Vanderlinden informed council a new computer-aided dispatch system will be installed by June to interconnect area dispatch centers in the event one goes out of operation.

The department has received several donations and grants for firefighting equipment, HAZMAT operations, and weapons, added Vanderlinden. Crimes, accidents and fire calls have decreased from the previous year, he also noted.

O'Toole praised the police chief and public safety employees for their efficient operation of the department.

"For a small city in the Upper Peninsula, the advanced technology we use to solve crime and fight crime is unbelievable," said O'Toole. He also commented on the department's forensic science capabilities and community outreach programs.

Public Works Superintendent/City Engineer Bill Farrell gave council a review of his department. In addition to providing engineering services for the city, public works is responsible for several duties such as keeping utility records, maintaining streets and sidewalks, collecting garbage and recyclables, and taking care of the city's parks, trees, signs, and sanitary sewer system.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143,



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