By MIKE WILLIAMS
Two citizens spoke out Tuesday evening on the Town of Pulaski’s proposed budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year, expressing concerns about police cars, the Parks and Facilities Department and more.
Town Manager Shawn Utt presented an overview of the budget proposal prior to the beginning of a public hearing on the spending plan.
Calling it one of the most difficult budgets of his career, Utt noted that the $14.8 million budget proposal is actually about $56,000 less than the current year.
Spending in the Water Fund increased slightly in the budget due to capital improvement costs, and Sewer Fund spending rose a bit due to increased costs for the Peppers Ferry Regional Waste Water Treatment Plant. But the proposed budget’s General Fund saw reduced spending by nearly 2 percent compared to the current year.
Terry McPeak and John Jones were the only citizens to address council on the budget plan.
McPeak expressed concerns over police cars being driven to and from work by officers living in other localities.
McPeak said the officers get a salary, but “what about the gas and wear and tear on the vehicles?”
“I’m sure they (officers) don’t pay taxes here if they live in Radford, Hillsville, Wytheville and other places,” said McPeak. He asked if everyone in the police department gets a car. “Seems like it,” he said.
McPeak also expressed a desire for citizens to be able to vote on issues such as adding a bicycle lane on Route 99.
He added that the only industry to come to Pulaski while Dr. John White has served as Economic Development Director was James Hardie. “Only one I’ve seen,” McPeak said. White is retiring at the end of June.
Lastly, he asked if the town’s citizens want Pulaski to become a retirement community.
Jones targeted the Parks and Facilities Department with most of his remarks.
“It disturbs me that you have a Parks and Facilities Director, a Park Manager and an Assistant Park Manager and their salaries are $153,326.36 a year,” Jones stated. “Who does the mowing,” he asked. “It seems we’re a little top-heavy there.”
Another concern, Jones said, was the salary of the Assistant Park Manager who “is making more money than five of your police officers.”
Jones noted the Capital Improvement Plan included in the proposed budget includes nearly $89,000 for the replacement of three police vehicles.
“What happens to the old police cars,” he asked.
He, too, mentioned the idea of adding a bike lane out Route 99.
“We already have a drag strip,” he said, adding he believes a bike lane would cause lots of injuries and other problems. He urged the police department to set up radar on Route 99 from the traffic light at Franklin Avenue and East Main Street out to Hardee’s.
“People are driving ridiculous speeds out through there,” he said.
And on the matter of bike patrols in Kiwanis Park and Dora Trail, Jones suggested the police department leave a police bike at Pulaski Bikes, so an officer can drive to the depot, get his bike and patrol the area. If they need to leave, their car would be close by.
Mayor Nick Glenn noted prior to opening the public hearing that council would not respond to citizens’ comments during the hearing, but would address their questions at council’s next meeting on Tuesday.
Council is expected to vote on the budget Tuesday and the new fiscal year begins July 1.