Council adds money for bike trails, effluent line
BULLHEAD CITY — City Council members heard details about spending plans for the upcoming fiscal year during a workshop on Monday.
The $79.6 million budget for fiscal year 2019-2020, which begins July 1, is balanced and reflects the improved local economy. It’s 11.6% larger than the $71.3 million budget for fiscal year 2018-19, which ends June 30.
Four new positions are included this budget: an office assistant for development services, an assistant public works director, an emergency services dispatcher. and a clerk for the Veterans Treatment Court. The clerk is funded by a grant to the court. This would bring the number of city employees — full and part-time — to 286.5.
In the mid-2000s, before the Great Recession, there were more than 300 people working for the city, said City Manager Toby Cotter.
Major items already in the budget include $3.18 million for Bullhead City’s share of a second Laughlin bridge; $2.8 million for purchase of water rights to 3,255 acre-feet of Colorado River water; and $2.5 million for street improvements — excluding two traffic signal projects along Highway 95.
Police Chief Brian Williamson said there are three dispatch job candidates lined up to begin training, which takes six to eight months. The preferred number of dispatchers on a shift is four. However, shifts are being handled by only three and, sometimes, just two people on slow shifts or when some workers are off.
And Williamson emphasized that it’s a difficult job.
For police and fire situations these dispatchers are, he said, the “first responders.”
The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials recommends that a coverage area like Bullhead City’s — which includes fire departments in Bullhead City, Fort Mohave, Mohave Valley and Golden Shores — have 22 emergency dispatchers.
“We don’t need 22,” Williamson said. “But we need some help.”
The norm is that when three people begin training that only one of them will complete that training.
Among other needs are to upgrade the mobile phones officers use on duty from iPhone 6s to iPhone 8s. The older models are failing. They will buy 10 more iPhones. Total cost to replace and add phones would be about $13,200.
The phones allow patrol officers to take pictures of crime scenes, and contact people while in the field, for example.
During the discussion about Public Works needs, Cotter said the potential cost of taking control of EPCOR Water Arizona’s local system isn’t in the budget. If the system is condemned the city can create a budget override to cover the cost.
“Wall Street will loan us the money,” he said.
Cotter also warned the council — and the public — that EPCOR won’t give up willingly its control of the system in the Bullhead City area.
“They’ll use a lot of scare tactics,” he said. “But the court will decide. Don’t let it scare you.”
The City Clerk’s office budgeted $83,550 for an election that would ask residents to allow the city to take over EPCOR’s local system. No date was mentioned.
Also in the Public Works budget are allocations for roof repairs at the police department, senior center and City Hall. A public works employee said the department is “chasing leaks.”
The police department roof work alone will cost more than $137.000.
Council member Kathy Bruck said that at the senior center “it rains inside.”
The fuel tank off Alona’s Way has a leak from its inner layer into its outer layer and needs to be replaced. Cost will be $425,000.
Cotter said staff believes the leak hasn’t made its way out of the tank yet.
Council member Mark Clark suggested that the city find a way to fund a new 12-inch interlink line between the Section 10 and Section 18 wastewater plants to allow for targeted routing of the effluent. No money was included for this project in this budget but is scheduled to be complete in 2022. Project cost is $750,000.
He said a grant might be available for the improvement. It will be marked as an enterprise expense in the meantime.
Clark also sought funding in this budget for Tot and Pump cycling tracks for youths in Rotary Park, using $100,000 from the reserve fund. Parks and Recreation will be looking for grant money to pay for adult mountain bike trail creation.
Cotter said the estimate that the city will see a roughly 3.6% increase in city tax collections is “conservative” — as is the overall revenue picture used to assemble the spending plan. It does include six months of anticipated tax revenue that would come from the Holiday Inn Express now under construction, however.
“With our growing economy there might be a chance that we won’t spend out of the reserve,” Cotter said.
Budget adoption is expected during the June 4 City Council meeting. The official public hearing and final adoption of the budget will occur during the June 18 council meeting.