Officials consider city priorities for board term

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, January 18, 2006

After getting suggestions from board members, Mayor BobMassengill and aldermen began Tuesday the process of identifyingthe top priorities for the city for their current terms inoffice.

From a list of 17 priorities that will cost money to pursue,Massengill asked board members to vote for 10. He said a startingplace is needed as officials consider what they would like toaccomplish.

“What we’re dealing with is not the plan for the next year,”Massengill said. “What we’re dealing with is a plan for the nextthree and a half years.”

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Two personnel-related issues, development of middle managementin public works areas and better pay for city employees, wereremoved from the list after officials agreed those matters shouldbe pursued regardless of other priorities. Officials then discussedthe remaining items, two of which dealt with how to proceed withcity street paving.

During the discussion, infrastructure needs involving water andsewer concerns emerged as a leading issue.

“I don’t think there’s a ward in the city that doesn’t need it,”said Ward Four Alderwoman Shirley Estes.

Other issues also received support from board members.

Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates said annexation was his number onepriority.

“We should have done it years ago,” Bates said.

With a ruling on the city’s annexation case not expected untilnext year and with the city having a five-year window for providingsome services, Massengill questioned whether that should be apriority for this board term. Assuming annexation approval, he saidthe city this term could get by with immediately providing policeand fire protection as required, but other services possibly couldwait.

“The big costs will be water and sewer,” the mayor said.

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell agreed, but added the city maywant to start planning for the annexation so the nextadministration could be better prepared.

Bates lobbied for a swimming pool and a community center.

The alderman said it was a “slap in the face” to the city whenthe swimming pools were closed several years ago. And he repeatedconcerns about the direction of some recreation departmentactivities.

“It’s moving away from a lot of our kids that’re reallyimportant to our city,” Bates said.

Estes cited the need for economic development and its importanceon other aspects of the city.

“If we don’t have economic development, we’re going backwardsand everything else is moot,” she said.

Alderman at large Les Bumgarner pitched the need for downtownrevitalization.

“When you lose your downtown, you don’t get it back,” Bumgarnersaid. “Downtown needs to survive forever.”

After talking with Ward Three Alderwoman Mary Wilson, who wasout of town and unable to attend last night, Massengill said hewould tally the votes and get the results to aldermen.

Massengill said the board could then narrow the list further indetermining what priorities to pursue. He urged unity among theboard as officials move forward.

“I want this to be our priorities,” the mayor said. “I want usto work together toward accomplishing these goals.”