By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Atmore City Council members unanimously approved during their Monday, November 9, meeting a $12 million-plus budget for the upcoming fiscal year, a funding package that includes an across-the-board pay increase for all municipal employees.
City Clerk Becca Smith reminded council members during a November 4 budget workshop that the figures on the document are not written in stone; the five-member council gave it the green light without further discussion.
“A budget is a plan, a guideline, a blueprint,” Smith said. “Just because an amount is on the budget, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.”
The largest piece of the city’s Fiscal Year 2020-21 financial pie — 28 percent, or $3,474,000 — is earmarked for the police department. The total includes $50,000 for lease payments on five police cars purchased last year, and $180,000 to help further upgrade APD’s vehicle fleet. There is also $47,000 for much-needed communication equipment and upgrades.
Police Chief Chuck Brooks told the council during the workshop that poor or non-existent communications between him and his officers, as well as between the city’s two top public safety agencies, is the biggest problem his department faces.
“We want to get the P25 system, so we can talk with people statewide,” he said. “I just wish I could talk to my people when they’re out at Walmart. There have been issues, situations where we need to coordinate things and work together. But when I can’t even talk to the fire chief, and he’s just on the other side of a building, we’ve got problems, big problems.”
The second-largest chunk —$2,119,925 (17 percent) — is slated to go to Streets & Sanitation, where $319,225 has been set aside for the possible purchase of a new garbage truck or new equipment should the need arise, while $700,000 is earmarked to pay for construction of the department’s new headquarters.
Atmore Fire Department got a 13 percent share of the budget, providing Chief Ron Peebles with $1,569,000 that includes an allowance of $125,000 for new protective gear and/or new equipment for firefighters.
Subsidies and Appropriations also received a 13-percent share of the budget for appropriations to Senior Citizens Activity ($53,000), Escambia County Board of Education ($360,000), South Alabama Regional Planning Commission ($13,375), Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce ($20,000) and Escambia County Industrial Development Authority ($25,000).
That budget area also includes $300,000 to transfer for capital projects, $150,000 for payments on a loan to First National Bank & Trust, and a $750,000 payment on the bonded indebtedness for the Rivercane purchase.
The remaining budget went as follows: 3 percent each to the Building and Inspection Department and for a sixth cell at the city’s landfill, and 2 percent each to Atmore Municipal Court, Cemeteries, Parks & Recreation, Atmore Public Library, and the Beautification Department. Atmore Municipal Airport got a 1 percent share.
City workers were most excited about the pay raise granted all non-elected municipal employees.
“This employee raise is a straight, 7 percent, across-the-board increase,” Smith said. “It’s for all part-time, fulltime, or whatever, employees in every department. There hasn’t been one in about four years.”
Newly elected District 3 rep Eunice Johnson won her first battle on behalf of her district when, during the workshop, she got a promise from Mayor Jim Staff that reflectors would be placed to mark several deep ditches across the district into which the elderly and young children might fall.
Staff and Smith reported prior to Monday’s council meeting that reflectors have already been placed on Montgomery, Liberty and Peachtree streets and at West Park. Staff said others have been ordered and will be installed as soon as they arrive.
In other business Monday, the council:
- appointed Ken Cooper to replace newly elected District 4 Councilman Shawn Lassiter on the city zoning board.
- approved a resolution authorizing Civil Southeast to apply for state funding from the Rebuild Alabama Act Annual Program for paving portions of 14th Avenue and East Ridgeley, Harris and Trammell streets.
- approved a resolution authorizing the city to apply for airport improvement funding from the state. Staff said the funds, if granted, would be used to build new hangars, including one large enough for business jets.
- approved a resolution declaring certain properties on Brown, Bullard, Hollis, Howard, Martin, Maxwell, Montgomery, Peachtree, Perch and South Presley streets, as well as those on Martin Luther King Jr. and Wilson avenues, as grass and weed nuisances. The 17 properties are the only ones remaining from a list that began with 103 locations.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.