Esky City Council increases road funding

ESCANABA – The Escanaba City Council upped the city’s proposed street budget for 2014-15 by adding $200,000 more for maintenance of local roads Wednesday, right in the height of this year’s pothole season.

Council reached the decision after one and a half days of reviewing the city’s draft document outlining $28 million in revenues and expenditures for the upcoming fiscal year which begins July 1. Department heads presented their individual budgets during the work sessions.

To date, three public hearings have been held on the upcoming budget. Two more public hearings are scheduled for May 1 and May 15. Council will adopt the 2014-2015 budget on May 15.

Escanaba’s proposed general fund budget totals $7.66 million for day-to-day operations. Basic components include utility rate hikes of 2 percent for both water and wastewater customers and a pay raise for administrators of up to 2 percent.

The proposed 2 percent water rate hike represents a 49-cent monthly increase for a residential customer using 5,000 gallons of water a month. The proposed 2 percent wastewater increase equals a 37-cent monthly hike for customers using 5,000 gallons of wastewater a month.

There are no rate increases slated for garbage or electric customers. As in past years, the electric fund will provide financial support to the general fund with a $463,624 transfer of monies.

Upcoming expenditures for the city include a new roof on the civic center, two police cars, two public works trucks, a sludge-hauling truck, $366,242 worth of pole replacements, and $124,334 worth of street light replacements.

While personnel costs account for the majority of the city’s budget, major expenses also include funding for maintenance of local and major roads in the city. Council amended the proposed budget after hearing administrators’ concerns about road conditions.

“Overall, city administration believes the quality of streets will continue to decline if more funding is not raised for repairs and maintenance,” stated City Manager Jim O’Toole in his budget message to council.

Initially, the proposed budget contained $759,388 for maintenance and snow-plowing on major streets and $454,872 for maintenance and snow-plowing on local streets along with $100,000 for repaving of major roads and $100,000 for repaving of local roads.

Public Works Superintendent/City Engineer Bill Farrell told council during his budget presentation on Tuesday, “With our roads, we’re taking a different philosophy this year. Instead of the worst case scenario, we’re budgeting for an average year.”

Farrell thanked council Wednesday following its decision to amend the proposed finances by adding $200,000 more for local street maintenance from the street fund budget.

The city will continue to seek grants from the state for major road improvements, said Farrell.

Escanaba is also pursuing state assistance for frost damage done to streets, water lines, and sewer lines this past winter and spring, added O’Toole.

In addition to amending the proposed finances to include $200,000 more for local streets, council also amended the draft document to include an additional $6,000 for the library resulting from a $6,000 savings from the general fund.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143,