Aldermen must step up, make tough decisions

Published 5:00 am Monday, September 8, 2003

It is time for the mayor and board of aldermen to take thereigns of leadership to find solutions to a myriad of budget andcity service-related questions.

For whatever reasons, though, the board has been reticent tostep up to plate to make the tough decisions needed in times suchas these.

Instead of decisive action, the board has debated some issues tono conclusion. On others, it has acted only after virtually beingtold to do so by a consultant, engineer, attorney or similarauthority.

In the case of annexation, as one alderman recently pointed out,the board took 14 years and considered no less than four cityexpansion plans before finally settling on one. The plan adoptedhas been questioned as being too large given the city’s currentsituation.

While possibly being close to a decision, aldermen have yet tofind a solution to the city’s long-struggling solid wasteoperation. The board is paying a consultant $10,000 plus expensesfor his assistance.

Officials are facing a hard decision on whether to privatizeservices or to raise fees enough to cover expenses. Nevertheless, achoice must be made and made soon.

Aldermen last week revived a scaled-back version of themulti-modal transportation facility after City Engineer Carl RayFurr pitched the importance of not allowing federal funding tolapse. While no one has been against the project, questions aboutneed and long-term operating costs remain.

Thoroughly discussing an issue before reaching a decisionsometimes may be the prudent course. Other decisions are moreclear-cut.

Discussions about routine city services such as ditch cleaningand mosquito spraying are now bogged down in questions over privateproperty issues and potential favoritism for one neighborhood overanother.

While we applaud the board for seeking clarification on theproperty issues, some decisions shouldn’t be this hard. Schedulethe work and get it done.

Now aldermen are wringing their hands over city departmentequipment needs, rising health insurance costs and how to give payraises for city employees. Years of getting by with repairing agingequipment, covering insurance costs and giving blanket pay raisesis now catching up to the board.

There are no easy answers or quick-fix solutions.

In the board’s defense, aldermen acted quickly to squash aquestionable new city hall project. City leaders also took the leadin supporting a new industrial park, although where city funds willcome from remains unclear.

But more hard decisions lie ahead. The clock in ticking on whenBrookhaven’s leaders will get around to making them.