Letter: Sold a bill of goods
To the Editor:
Should our city hire a city engineer and create a new city engineering department in 2003? Taxpayers, we are being sold a bill of goods regarding this matter. Cheerleader -Pollyanna approaches and propaganda have no place in this decision. It should be made on facts alone. Statements such as: "I think the city engineer could benefit the city both financially and in other ways," "We are on the brink of a lot of new development," "We need an engineer to look out for the best interests of our citizens," and "It will save the city millions of dollars," are not facts.
On July 15, when the city engineer idea was presented at the council budget hearing, I noticed the idea of spending $170,000 on a city engineer became the driving force of four council members, rather than balancing the budget and being financially responsible. The $200,000 the proposed budget had saved was going to be nearly wiped out by a budget that appropriates the money for the city engineer. Remember these same four council members refused to accept City Manager John Helin's balanced budget, $5,413,338 (without the city engineer) with nearly 4 percent as contingency for emergencies. They have forced the adoption of a $5,568,642 budget with only 1.56 percent as contingency. They are already not listening to him. What will they do with his recommendation in Feb. 2003 regarding the city engineer?
Dr. Ted Stolfus' administration just two years ago studied whether the city should create an engineering department. I understand they studied the costs of and it was determined that a city engineer or engineering department would cost us more than the amount they would have to pay an outside engineering firm. It would not save money.
At a recent budget hearing, Dan Byers, council president, said, "If our city reached a break-even point, where our city engineer could save the city more money than it costs to have an (outside) engineering department, then I would be in favor of it. Our city has not reached that point yet."
Our mayor has said that an in-house engineer could have saved $120,000 this year on development projects. The city engineer alone, not an engineering department, would cost $170,000. That would leave us $50,000 in the hole.
This city engineer problem may not be just a matter of saving the city money.
An elderly, highly-respected citizen said to me, "Doris, get your head out of the sand. You are na. In the deep, dark past when a portion of the city council decided to rush through the creation of a position or department, a family member or friend (nepotism) was waiting in the wings to fill the position. Ask yourself, is there an engineer, a clerical worker, a person able to give technical assistance to an engineer waiting in the wings for a cushy job? After all, our employees have many benefits which we taxpayers do not have ourselves."
While the mayor has said that we have a few developments in the works, he does support delaying the decision.
Councilman Archie Sanders said, "Let's take the year 2003 to let these developments actually materialize, and let's see what our city's actual financial situations is before considering this matter. I want to be assured that we do not consider a city engineer, or engineering department until the year 2004."
The mayor and three other council members, Dan Byers, Jeff Harrington, and Doug Clements agreed with councilman Sanders.
Don't let the other four members of our council and the mayor railroad through the final adoption of this budget without the following consideration. Please go to public hearing at 7:30 p.m., Monday, Aug. 19, at City Hall and demand the council agree to not consider hiring a city engineer, or creating an engineering department until the fiscal year 2004. That will allow time for a factual study to be developed that our taxpayers could read, so that we are not being influenced by press releases of cheerleading-Pollyanna statements.