Berryville council votes to approve budget for 2012

Friday, December 23, 2011

BERRYVILLE -- "I think happy times are here again," said Mayor Tim McKinney when presenting the city's budget for the year ahead that he described as "optimistic -- yet conservative."

It was approved as presented by city council members who were given copies of the proposal at their last meeting.

McKinney said there are capital improvement projects included -- but those will require mayoral approval based on revenues at the time.

Jason Williams, a Berryville Chamber of Commerce board member and a member of the city's Planning and Zoning Commission, questioned a line item in the budget that allocates $8,500 to the planning commission.

Williams said he didn't know why the commission would need the money -- and suggested it be used to pay the chamber director's salary instead -- at least six months of funding to get them through most of the chamber's planned events.

McKinney had previously pulled all city funding for the chamber director's job, which amounts to $10,700 annually. The chamber contributes another $10,300 toward the $21,000 yearly salary for the full-time position, currently held by Ginger Oaks, that comes with zero benefits.

McKinney later relented and agreed to provide four months of funding for the position to give the chamber time to make other arrangements.

At Tuesday's meeting, he told Williams they could revisit the issue again in several months, and referenced a letter he sent to all chamber members explaining his position and urging the membership to step up and pay the director's salary.

In that letter, McKinney said it is his intent to hire a full-time city employee who would recruit new business and industry; retain and expand existing businesses; promote and improve the city's Internet presence; and provide grant-writing skills and assistance -- instead of contributing toward the chamber director's pay.

The letter continued with McKinney saying, "That being said, what the chamber, under Ginger's leadership does is important to our city's image and feeling of community pride; therefore, I hope the businesses of Berryville will respond in a positive manner as the chamber board looks for ways to continue providing the support the chamber has given to our community in the past."

McKinney said the city will continue providing rent-free office space to the chamber, as well as paying the utilities for the office and he believes the Berryville business community "has grown to the point that they can fully support a full-time chamber director position, and I know it would continue to be a good investment for all of us as we strive to make Berryville a good place to live, work and do business."

In other council business, Alderman Cindy George suggested the city dismantle the basketball goals at Pioneer Park because it is a draw for youth who have disturbed nearby residents and have vandalized the Carroll County Courthouse Annex.

McKinney suggested the city approach the Baptist church across from city hall where youth utilize basketball goals set up on Baptist property in an area that is open and well-lit -- unlike Pioneer Park, which is "tucked in" and dark. "It's something we can look at this year," he said.

The final reading of an ordinance setting the salary for the city's treasurer's job was approved. It is to go into effect the first of the year.

The council also gave McKinney the authority to negotiate an engineering services contract with Engineering Services Inc, known as ESI. He said the city had previously contracted with Gray Rock Consulting but that firm had scaled back operations. McKinney said he talked to several engineering outfits and ESI seemed to be the best fit.

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