The wish list includes a police car, reinstatement of full-time hours at the golf course and money for roads – but nothing will be official in Liberty Lake until a few days before Christmas.
At a special meeting Tuesday night, Mayor Wendy Van Orman and representatives of the City Council rummaged through the minutia of the municipal budget, reallocating some $140,000 in funds that lacked a placeholder when the preliminary financial plan was drawn up in early fall. Failure of statewide Initiatives 1100 and 1105 in November, a halt on proposed pay raises for city leaders and nearly $38,000 in levied banked capacity resulted in the extra funds.
The City Council also voted unanimously to stop the presses on the city newsletter, currently printed every other month at a cost of $1,500 per issue.
In a discussion over the purchase of an additional police vehicle, Council Member Ryan Romney proposed that the city save money on interest by setting aside $27,000 to buy the car rather than allocating yearly payments of $9,800. The motion passed 4-3.
“If we can finance it completely we should,” Romney said. “It will actually cost us less in the long run.”
The deliberations over the status of the city-owned golf course, Trailhead at Liberty Lake, continued with proposal to reinstate the golf pro position at a full-time level, a move that would cost the city $27,000. Based on stipulations in the preliminary budget, the course was closed for the season on Nov. 12, an announcement that generated rancor among many Trailhead supporters who have since rallied on behalf of golf pro Mollie Thola and maintenance director Ron Knudsen.
“These are employees who have been committed to the success of the golf course and I think it’s time for the city to make a commitment to this venue,” said former Liberty Lake Mayor Steve Peterson, who provided a power point presentation on the value of the course to the city titled “Green Space with Revenue.”
Council members discussed the possibility of combining the duties of the city’s retiring parks and recreation director with Knudsen’s current role.
After City Council voted 4-3 in favor of ticketing the $27,000 to fully fund the golf pro salary, Van Orman was asked what the decision would mean in terms of reopening Trailhead for the winter. The mayor responded that the golf course “would be discussed in its entirety” at the next council meeting on Dec. 21 – the last officially scheduled gathering before the budget deadline of Dec. 31.
In his presentation on Trailhead, Peterson indicated that the course had generated $2.79 million in revenue from January 2003 to October 2010. An enhanced winter schedule as well as a 5-percent increase in greens fees and other additions could bring the course another $53,000 annually, Peterson said.
After Romney recommended that the city shift $50,000 from a library capital facilities fund to street maintenance, Council Member Judi Owens amended the motion to move the entire $106,000 from the fund to streets. Ultimately, council members voted 7-0 to allocate $36,000 to road maintenance with the remaining $70,000 going to the capital street fund.
The municipal library continued its resurgence at the budget table on Tuesday, receiving just over $21,000 for maintenance expenses as well as another $38,132 based on a readjustment of costs for utilities and insurance in the building shared by the police department. The new funds bring the library’s 2011 budget to $340,000 and mean the reinstatement of two full-time positions. Weekly library hours would go from 46 to 40 under the proposal.
In a surprise move, council members approved a line item in next year’s budget that would pave the way for the potential return of a city administrator. The late Lewis Griffin served in the role from 2001 to 2005 when Peterson cut the position. No funds have yet been set aside for the salary, although Council Member Odin Langford said the symbolic line item indicates “the intent of the council.”
The City Council is expected to approve the 2011 budget at its next meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 21, at 7 p.m.