Sanitary Board Approves Budget 2-1; Naval Reserve "Gift" Requires Reconcilation of Written and Verbal Understandings

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
Loretta Covington (file photo)
Loretta Covington (file photo)

HUNTINGTON, WV (HNN) – Members of the Huntington Sanitary Board voted 2-1 to send a proposed budget to Huntington City Council. Member Alex Vince dissented preferring that a spreadsheet containing line item expenditures this year and the previous year be provided prior to the vote.

“I don’t like the numbers, so I won’t second,” Vince told board members Garry Black and Mayor Kim Wolfe.

Vince had an additional budget concern --- the amount of benefit costs in relation to the total personnel costs.

Board member Garry Black agreed that $1.6 million in benefits “sticks out” in a $2 million plus personnel budget. $1.2 million comes from health care costs. He also told Covington they needed ‘actual numbers,” not “estimates” for preceding years.

Loretta Covington, executive director of HSB, called the fiscal 2011 proposal a “static budget.” The board would carry over approximately $192,945 as a net cash surplus from the current fiscal year.

Regarding the health care costs, she told the board that HSB is contacting other insurance providers.

“We have been turned down by six companies that do not cover retirees,” she said.

Ms. Covington indicated that material and supplies would increase about $40,000. This item includes “all oil products and substantially increased fuel costs.” She said the extremely wet weather has increased pipe costs, too.

Black voted with chairman Mayor Wolfe to approve the recommended budget.

NAVAL RESERVE

Both Covington and Mayor Wolfe expressed desire to find a means for accepting the Huntington Naval Reserve structure on Jackson Avenue. All parties are working on altering the written language that implies financial commitment.

Ms. Covington has spoken with Susan Webb, an Atlanta General Services Administration representative, whom she described as an “advocate for us to receive the building at no cost.”

However, there’s bed news and a speck of sunshine here.

“That resolution’s [language] cannot be changed in any shape, form or fashion,” Covington explained, adding, “it would take an Act of Congress to change the way that resolution reads.”

Several council members have objected to the last two paragraphs of the resolution which essentially commits the city and HSB financially. City Attorney Scott McClure had at the April first reading agreed that the wording"smells like an obligation."

However, based on the HSB  May 11 special call meeting, Covington and Webb have verbal understandings which underscore a non-financial commitment at this time. Covington paraphrased Ms. Webb as stating, “I think I can get this done…. We were part of the city, it’s a good piece of property and an asset to the city.”

Board member Garry Black indicated the matter would need a sponsor to go back on the council agenda. He agreed with Jim Insco that “we are not going to commit funds until we have an assessment.”

Covington said it would likely take about two weeks to get the “verbal” understanding and “written” language reconciled.

Mayor Wolfe optimistically expressed, “I think we can get through this, if we get a letter [from GSA].”

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