City clerk Kathy Chambless deemed the budget “conservative,” saying it includes operational costs at the 2013 level, increases for health and retirement insurance for city workers, funding to agencies supported by the city such as the city school board and the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County, as well as $18 million for infrastructure projects in the city and an $820,000 project in District 5. The budget also includes the debt service for the $52 million project to build a new Walker High School.
“This budget was well thought out by me and Kathy — and Kathy moreso than anyone. All I did was give her some instructions and recommendations,” Mayor Sonny Posey said following the meeting. “The council spent a lot of time reviewing what we proposed, and apparently they view things the same way that we do.”
The budget does not currently include a pay raise for city employees, but that is expected to be discussed by council members at a later time.
“We’ve not had an opportunity to look at the pay plan for the city employees, but I believe the concensus is that we come back shortly and revisit that issue,” Chambless said during the meeting.
“It’s a little early for us to project a raise, or at least the amount of a raise, for city employees,” Posey said, “but all of us agree that the employees should be given, if at all possible, a raise this year, possibly effective Jan. 1.”
Posey said he and the council are in agreement that city workers deserve a pay hike.
“I’m thinking there’s five votes on the council, and six counting me, who wants to make sure that happens,” he said. “I don’t want them to rest assured that it’s a done deal, but I’ll promise them we’re working hard to make it happen. And I think we can do that. I’m going to give it all I havem, and I think the council will, too.”
Council president Gary Cowen agreed that Chambless, Posey and council members worked hard over several hours to iron out the budget, which tops last year’s budget of $19 million.
Council members unanimously approved the budget.
In other business, council members:
•approved the minutes of the Nov. 19 council meeting.
•recognized singing sensation ‘Shelbie Z.’ Panter, who appeared on this season’s reality singing competition “The Voice” on NBC.
Panter, who wowed the coaches and was selected by country singer Blake Shelton to compete on his team of singers, was presented a key to the city by Mayor Sonny Posey.
Panter said she’s releasing her single, Walker County Way, on iTunes on Dec. 17 and informed council members that she’s also planning to film a music video in the county some time in early 2014.
•approved setting the three percent preference zone regarding vendors in the city. The council had three options in setting the preference zone, including a zone that includes just the city limits, a zone that encompasses all of Walker County, and a zone that includes a core-based statistical area made up of Bibb, Blount, Chilton, Jefferson, St. Clair and Walker counties.
City purchasing agent Tommy Knight said if the council does not set a zone, according to state code, it reverts to the zone that just includes the city limits.
The council chose to set the zone to include all of Walker County.
•renewed a contract with Newman Tree Service for clearing work in the city.
The contract calls for the same terms as the 2013 contract.
•approved a request to contract with the Walker County Basketball Officials Association to provide officials for youth basketball games.
The contract also calls for an increase in the cost of officials — the first rate hike in the past six years, Knight said.
•introduced a $3,900 funding request for an upgrade to AutoCad software for the city’s planning department.
•approved a parade permit for Jasper’s First Church of the Nazarene to host a 5k run on Jan. 4 at 9 a.m.
Proceeds from the run will go to Lane Clark, the son of Jasper Fire Chief David Clark, who is battling T-cell leukemia, and the church’s youth program.
•adopted a resolution regarding the city’s nuisance abatement ordinance concerning two properties, both of which are deemed unsafe and are in District 5. The structures are at 1111 25th Street West and 1113 25th Street West.
•adopted a resolution to allow Posey to sign a Standard Project Resolution with the Alabama Department of Transportation for a paving and striping project on Corridor X from Ala. 118 to Ala. 69.
•approved an agreement with Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood for design work on a project on Viking Drive.
The agreement was introduced at a previous meeting.
•adopted an ordinance to amend the city’s economic development ordinance.
The ordinance gives the city a broader range in providing incentives for future development.
“This will give us the flexibility to give different incentives based on several factors and to do it more on a case-by-case basis,” said city attorney Russ Robertson.
“This will lay the foundation for other businesses to come here,” said Linda Lewis, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County.