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New park among city’s top projects

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The Roswell City Council chose infrastructure, a new city park and renovations to a police station as its top capital projects and voted to dissolve two more furlough days for city employees at a special meeting Thursday night.

Councilors chose from more than 50 projects totaling more than $37 million dollars to narrow down the top five projects to submit to the state for possible capital outlay allocations.

Councilor Barry Foster requested the addition of a new park in the 2300 block of South Virginia Avenue be added to the list. That project was discussed in the Aug. 26 General Services Committee meeting. Foster represents Ward 5, where the park would be located.

Resolution 20-50 authorizing the 2022-26 Infrastructure Capital Improvements Plan passed 9-0. Councilor George Peterson was not present.

To choose the top projects, city councilors were given 10 stickers each to place on their favored projects, printed on large copies of the list hanging on the wall of the meeting room.

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After about 15 minutes, City Manager Joe Neeb announced the results.

There was a tie for the top three projects, he said. The five projects included in the resolution are:

• Renovation of the police station on West Second at $400,000.

• North Garden Street bridge replacement at $750,000.

• Variable frequency drive pumps for the city’s water production system at $1.4 million.

• A new park on Virginia Street, estimated at $200,000.

• Paving of West McGaffey Street from Wyoming Avenue to Union Avenue at $750,000.

The Police Department’s project would renovate the old National Guard building on West Second into evidence storage and to house the drug task force and the technical services unit. Police Chief Philip Smith said the need for the space is critical due to requirements from a law passed in 2015.

That law requires a criminal conviction before a law enforcement agency can seize an individual’s personal property.

“We’re a busy city and that particular law made it difficult to destroy property or move it along without the influence of the state,” Smith said.

“It’s caused a flow of materials that we need to store,” he said. “We’re filled to the gills.”

Variable frequency drive (VFD) pumps are needed citywide to help prevent damage to water infrastructure, said Utilities Director Lorenzo Sanchez.

The VFD’s power wells up or down slowly so it does not damage the system, he said.

“Right now the wells kick on and it really jolts. They jump. You can imagine the shock that puts to the system,” he said.

Areas of town where VFDs have been installed have had fewer water main breaks, which also means less damage to streets or driveways, he said.

The city’s list of projects must be submitted to the state by Sept. 18.

Also in Thursday night’s meeting, the council voted to dissolve two more city employee furlough days. The city had budgeted for 10 furlough days in fiscal year 2021 starting in July, anticipating a drop in revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, with a voluntary severance and early retirement program from the city along with gross receipts tax collections in March higher than expected, the city was able to cancel July and August’s furlough days.

The council voted 9-0 to cancel furlough days through the end of the year — which would be September and October as no furloughs were scheduled in November or December — but not before discussing canceling the rest of the furlough days.

Neeb, in response to a question from Foster, said the city budgeted the furlough days at about $160,000 each, or about $1.2 million if counting September and October.

Suggesting the city has “more breathing room” in its budget due to GRT collections and a $5.5 million allocation in funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, Foster made a motion to do away with furloughs through the end of the fiscal year in June.

City staff had to account for the furloughs in their personal budgets, Foster said, so canceling them now would help them out.

Councilor Jeanine Best said she understands that idea, but was against canceling all furlough days at this point.

“I’m scared the queen up north is going to either keep us where we are or shut us down even more once the herd immunity doesn’t level out to where she thinks it does. I understand you’re giving hope to employees, but as a business decision we need to keep that tool in our toolbox if we need it,” she said.

Councilor Jason Perry said he would not want to see the city get into a situation where it would have to reinstate furloughs after taking them away.

“I would rather err on the side of caution and be able to with 100% guarantee know that we can give our employees what we’re wanting to do for them,” he said.

Foster’s motion was voted down, 6 to 3. Councilors Perry, Angela Moore, Best, Judy Stubbs, Margaret Kennard and Savino Sanchez voted no, with Councilors Jacob Roebuck, Foster and Juan Oropesa voting yes.

Councilors also discussed a directive to Neeb on prioritizing future excess revenue, but ultimately decided to send it to the Legal Committee for review.

The item would direct the city manager, when revenue exceeds what is budgeted in fiscal 2021, to use the funds first for eliminating furloughs, second to reinstate step increases in pay for city personnel and third for facility or equipment expenditures.

The vote to send it to the Legal Committee was 7 to 2, with Oropesa and Sanchez voting against. Roebuck, Kennard, Perry, Stubbs, Best, Moore and Foster voted in favor.

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