In a special budget meeting, City Council heard two presentations as part of the Strategic Action Planning Process.
Assistant City Manager Lauren Johnston presented an update to the council's city priorities for the SAP at the March 28 meeting. Director of Stormwater and Engineering Carl Cote also updated council members on the city's 10-year capital plan.
Council members ask for less red-tape for small businesses
The modifications to the SAP priorities comes from the one-on-one listening session Johnston and staff had with council members.
Johnston said staff used these sessions to clarify, add or alter priorities from the individual council members. The City Council meeting was to discuss as a council and make any further alterations.
One area that was modified from the listening sessions was a priority under the city's "strong resilient economy" pillar geared toward supporting small businesses. Among the priority's smaller goals was fast-tracking the process for opening a business and cutting out red tape.
The council as a whole seemed to approve the idea. Vice Mayor Ed Danko said the city of course needs to be responsible and follow the law, but the process can't be difficult for businesses and developers.
"We have to make it easier for people to come here," Danko said. "I think we really need to trim it back."
Council member Theresa Carli Pontieri said this has been something she has championed.
"This is the heart of our community, our small businesses," she said. "It's very evident that small businesses really run our community."
Resurfacing program needs funding to maintain roadways
The 10-year Capital Improvement Plan covers projects across multiple departments at a high level, instead of an individual budget-breakdown, Cote said.
"A lot of these [projects] have been in the works and are ongoing," Cote said.
One area that Cote said is likely to affect the budget over is the city's Pavement Management Program. The funding
"This fund can not maintain the need for resurfacing the roadways," Cote said, "in terms of what [the roads] need to be at."
Cote said staff will come back with a special, in-depth presentation for the council members, identifying the needs of this program, including the 25% increase in costs over the last year.
In May 2022, Cote told City Council the city's Pavement Condition Index was rated 75 out of 100 in 2021, four-points down from its 2017 rating. He also said then — and in the March 28 meeting — that costs for repairs to the road increase dramatically as time goes by.
"This, in my opinion, is a need," Mayor David Alfin said. "Carl has told us in the past that this expense could accelerate dramatically if you were to keep it down the road."
The lack of funding has deferred other items while staff prioritizes the available funds — projects like parkway beautification and entry and neighborhood signs.
Currently, the program is funded from the county's fuel tax and some of the portion of state sales and use taxes that is allocated to the city. The state requires 22.64% of those funds used for street maintenance — Cote said the city used 45% for fiscal year 2023.
"You can't kick this can down the road any further," Vice Mayor Ed Danko said.