Council session offers chance to be ‘proactive’

Published 6:52 am Tuesday, March 3, 2009

By Staff
Meeting helpscity grapple with fiscal-year budget
Contributing Editor
The Washington City Council meets this morning in a one-day annual session to set priorities, determine the city’s direction for the future and discuss changes to improve the city’s quality of life.
In previous years, the council conducted its annual planning session over two days. The session helps participants prepare themselves to compile the upcoming fiscal-year budget. By knowing the council’s priorities, it’s easier to develop a budget that reflects those priorities, said the city manager and department heads.
In recent years, planning-session priorities included topics such as annexation, enterprise funds, public restrooms and downtown development. Those four priorities have been addressed this fiscal year. Last month, for instance, the council unanimously adopted a resolution of consideration that identifies four potential annexation areas.
Councilman Archie Jennings said he likes such meetings because it allows the council time to plan.
Jennings said he hopes council members will discuss about five issues in depth and “get their arms around” those issues.
He’d like the council and department heads to work closer together to find less-costly and more efficient ways to carry out council priorities.
Jennings also wants the city to consider combining a visitors center and the proposed Tar River Nature Park. Last week, a tourism consultant recommended the city locate a visitors center on U.S. Highway 17 in the city’s downtown area. Part of the land for the Tar River Nature Park abuts U.S. 17 at the southern foot of the U.S. 17 bridge.
The consultant also recommended the visitors center be interactive. Jennings said bringing people into an educational and informative visitors center then sending them outside to the river could provide an excellent interactive experience.
Jennings also would like the council to discuss “a growth strategy for east of the city,” an area that is receiving city-provided sewer lines.
Other council members are waiting to have their say, too.
Brooks wants to talk about the city’s employees.
Mayor Pro Tempore Doug Mercer is looking for a productive meeting, especially concerning budgetary items.
He plans to broach the subject of working with the county to save money for both entities.
Mercer believes the city and county can save money by buying some supplies in bulk.
Mercer also wants to expedite the transfer of 911 and emergency communication services to the county to save the city money. Plans call for the county to take over the city’s 911 service at the beginning of the next fiscal year. Mercer wants the city’s other emergency communications services turned over to the county soon after that.
The Council meets at 8 a.m. in the Municipal Building Council Chambers, 102 E. Second St.