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Prestigious awards and planning for the future filled City Council chambers on Oct. 26, as Council shuffled closer and closer to what promises to be a particularly terrifying budget season. Non-union City employees received a long-awaited pay increase, but otherwise (aside from the Green Building Ordinance), Council did not have many matters before it.
After the awards (see story on page 5), the City turned to work plans. City Manager Wally Bobkeiwicz plugged the upcoming public budget workshops, which begin on Nov. 7. Everyone is invited to participate in these workshops to help the City address increased costs and shrinking revenues, but Mr. Bobkiewicz reminded the public that attendance of the Nov. 7 workshop is a prerequisite to participating in full in subsequent workshop meetings.
Mr. Bobkiewicz said City staff will prepare work plans addressing two of Council’s stated goals: Economic Development and Efficiency and Effectiveness of City Services. (See story on page 4.) Look for those work plans to hit the Council dais in the coming weeks.
City employees not in a union received a retroactive (to March 1) 2 percent pay increase. Mr. Bobkiewicz said this raise normally comes “at the end of bargaining with all bargaining units,” but has been delayed because negotiations have not concluded with the police union as yet. Rather than wait for the protracted police discussions to finish, “I thought I should bring it forward now,” he said. About 175 employees (of nearly 2,000) fall outside unions “for a variety of reasons” based on “job classification” and some middle management titles, he said. Aldermen Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward; Delores Holmes, 5th Ward; and Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, all called the measure a matter of basic fairness. It passed 9-0.
At Mr. Bobkiewicz’s suggestion, the ordinance banning peddlers around Northwestern athletic events has been tabled indefinitely, while alternative pedestrian safety measures and the enforcement of existing ordinances, are given a chance to work. The City Manager and Chief of Police Richard Eddington will be reporting back after the conclusion of basketball season with the results.
Taking advantage of low current natural gas prices, the City locked in our current price for a full year. The cost is about 25 percent lower than last year’s price said Assistant City Manager Martin Lyons. A similar tactic with electricity costs was tabled, because the current contract still has a year to run and a full cost/benefit analysis of current cost versus expected future cost is inconclusive at the moment.
Proposed revisions to the City’s contract with Duncan Solutions for management of all aspects of citation (parking ticket) management, collection and costs concerned several aldermen. Although it failed to pass out of the Administration and Public Works Committee with a positive vote, it slipped back onto the consent agenda due to an oversight. As of press date, the status of this resolution is unclear.
The Planning and Development Committee continued a recent trend of having very little to do. Townhouse developments are required under the code to face the street, and the ordinance setting this requirement allowed no exceptions. A new ordinance now allows developers to at least request a variance and, on a case-by-case basis, the City may allow some townhouses to be oriented differently.
Condominium-owners who rent their units have been skating by without paying the $20 annual registration required of all landlords according to City Staff. In an effort to track down these delinquent landlords, Council passed a new ordinance requiring condo associations to provide names and addresses of unit-owners, and to indicate whether units are rented, on an annual basis. The City hopes to collect almost $30,000 in additional revenue as a result, according to the agenda item summary provided by City Staff.