Board must step up, share in crafting a vision for city

Published 5:00 am Monday, August 22, 2005

From visions for the future to budget issues, Brookhavenaldermen continue to be given new opportunities to provideleadership and input in important areas of city government.

Mayor Bob Massengill has extended these opportunities toaldermen in a spirit of cooperation and unity as officials embarkon a new four-year term. Sadly to some degree, board members havenot accepted the offer.

It has been more than a month since the mayor asked aldermen toidentify goals they would like to see accomplished in their wardsand in the city as a whole over the next four years. So far, as weunderstand it, only the mayor’s 11-point plan has beenpresented.

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It’s unlikely aldermen are in complete agreement with the mayoron the city’s future, and this is the chance for them to sharetheir vision.

Projects and ideas, be they a swimming pool, a community center,a beautification project or whatever else board members mayenvision, should be presented so they can be discussed fairly andopenly. The mayor and board can then move forward together towardaccomplishing common goals.

Years of a lack of involvement and leadership have in pastadministrations, for example, placed the board in the unenviableposition of having to raise water and sewer and solid wasterates.

Water and sewer rates, which are essentially at 1992 levels,have not been raised to account for inflation or to maintain fundsfor equipment maintenance and replacement. In 1997, shortly afterthe previous administration took office, water rates were evenlowered!

Solid waste operations are losing money. Officials expect a$70,000 deficit this year in that area.

That service and the water department have used revenue reservesto make ends meet, while the cost of doing business has risen.Those reserves are now virtually depleted.

Aldermen will face more difficult decisions in the days ahead asthey tackle employee health insurance costs and other importantgeneral fund budget matters. Because of a poor claims history,board members will be asked to consider potentially unpopular planchanges designed to keep insurance costs in line with current-yearspending levels.

While the mayor and city clerk may crunch the numbers, what goesin the budget is ultimately decided by the board. Aldermen mustdemonstrate good leadership in working with the mayor and otherstoward a fiscally responsible and prosperous future for thecity.