Multiple Part Budget Revision Would Establish Council City of Excellence Grants

Updated 5 years ago by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
Mayor Steve Williams
Mayor Steve Williams
File Photo

During the Huntington City Council work session, Thursday, Jan. 24, Deron Runyon, city finance director, announced that the former West 14th Street fire station has been sold.  Runyon told council that the structure sold for $29,200 and the administration recommends that  funds  go toward supplemental environmental projects.

The announcement came as part of the explanation for budget revisions that will be on the Monday night agenda. In addition to the sale of the former station, Runyon stated that $339,773 will be trimmed from the current budget. When taking office, Mayor Steve Williams instituted an immediate across the board 2% cut, which could not involve layoffs.

The third portion of the revision had been partially announced. The Williams Administration has recommended that $25,000 from the sale of the Huntington City Hall Annex be dedicated to $25,000 for the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center and $25,000 to HADCO.

Williams told council that, if approved, the $25,000 for the Keith Albee would be used to match a WV Department of Culture and History grant of nearly $103,000.

The Mayor proposed establishment of annual  City of Excellence grants of $2,500 left for award at the discretion of each council member in their district.

Comparing these Council mini-grants  to LEDA grants by the WV Legislature, Williams said  members would be able to allocate , for instance, $100 to a festival (leaving $2,400 for additional allocations) or designate the full $2,500 to a specific district project.  LEDA grants were used to repair the A.D. Lewis Pool. These excellence grants will be included in the next fiscal year’s budget. Guidelines for their use are in the process of development.

Council vice chairwoman, Sandra Clements, suggested that the funds be allocated to individual Neighborhood Institutes.

Williams responded, “let’s try it (this way) for five months.” He added that each individual member could choose to “appropriate the funds to a respective neighborhood organizations.”

The  proposal contains  $12,500 to the Cabell County Public Library for necessary structure and wall renovations to its two story parking garage located next door to the former City Annex, as well as $5,000 each to the Huntington Police Department and Huntington Fire Department for safety equipment.

The revision allocates  $35,000 for “contracted services” that will  “better assist in downtown (development) efforts and beautification.”  Specific proposals include establishing better labor/management communications , for strengthening collections by a business service division, and “streamlining” permits in a customer friendly approach. In all, these funds would be allocated among “five to seven” different projects, Williams said. The contracts would be the seed for hiring new personnel to positions where their collection and compliance efforts would pay their salary, as proposed by the Mayoral Transition team.

He assured council members, “I will not come (back) to you and ask for more. I’ll make sure this is enough and I’ll make it work.”

Contracts will go to vetted individuals and groups for devising each project.

Asked by council finance chairman Gary Bunn about the $25,000 allocation to HADCO, Williams explained that the city has not been a paying player at the table since the Felinton administration.

“I want to be a paying participant so our voice and expectations will be heard,” the Mayor said.

District One council woman Joyce Clark complimented the suggestion noting that the Wayne County Commission contributes to the Wayne County Economic Development Authority.

“We need (the involvement of)  all the entities to make an  exceptional city and region,”  Explaining that “we are a metropolitan area of 245,000,” Clark stressed that the Tri-State is within 500 miles of most of the population of the nation. “We need to think regionally (concerning economic development) and not be so isolated.”

Finally, on economic matters, Mayor Williams emphasized his opposition to paying the fees of opposing council in the suit involving the occupation tax.

“We are willing to rescind the occupation tax (but) I will be confounded to ever pay attorney fees.”

The Mayor’s response came following a request from occupation tax plaintiffs that the $100,000 from the Annex sale be allocated for their attorney fees.  Steel of West Virginia, a SEIU union local,  Teamsters Local 505, the Cabell County Commission, Tommie L. Kelley Sr., and Commissioner Bob Bailey are among the plaintiffs.

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