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News Story
Updated: 03/05/2014 08:00:05AM

Downtown to get new benches

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By KATHY LEIGH BERKOWITZ

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Downtown Lake Wales will get new benches.

The city’s CRA approved that at its meeting Tuesday.

Commissioner Jonathan Thornhill was not present for the CRA meeting held at City Hall.

James Slaton, the city’s director of support services, said the purchase includes 24 benches.

Commissioner Betty Wojcik said there had been talk of not enough money coming in and that the CRA was to watch expenses.

Dorothy Ecklund said there was $15,000 budgeted by the commission to fix the city’s fountain.

City staff was able to save some money, the $4,000 being requested here, she said.

She said it was not “additional” funding, but that which was left over. Ecklund said this year the CRA does have the money to make the debt service payment, and that this was money which could be spent.

City Manager Ken Fields added, “Our revenues were better than estimates in almost every case.”

He said that as long as the CRA sticks with the current plan, the finances should be fine.

Wojcik said “the appearance of the existing benches is horrendous,” adding that she understands they need to be replaced.

“And the new ones are gorgeous.”

The CRA passed the motion unanimously.

Slaten said they are recycled benches with a 50 year guarantee to last.

City Commission

Then there was the city commission meeting, which took place immediately following the CRA.

The city considered the second reading of the budget amendment ordinance.

Commissioners had no questions or comments to city finance director Ecklund, and there was no public comment either.

Thus, it was unanimously approved on its second reading.

The budget had been approved on Sept. 17, and the first reading of an ordinance to amend it was read on Feb. 18.

Basically, the amendment allows for increases and decreases to balance the city budget, as expenditures develop and monies come in.

The transportation fund balance was increased by $23,414, and so was the street lighting special assessment fund, by $6,488.

The CRA fund balance decreased by $105,289, largely due to the $100,000 held in trust, according to a memo sent to the city manager by Ecklund.

“This is mainly a housekeeping item to clarify the $100,000 restricted funds,” she noted.

The police forfeiture fund increased by $10,258, and the debt service fund decreased by $16,317.

There was a decrease in the utility system fund of $1,215,000, because during the previous year’s budgeting process, money set aside for the C Street project and the C Street carry-over items where both were included in the original estimate of the beginning fun balance.

“This was a clerical error,” noted Ecklund, in her memo. Both the city manager and the utility director were notified on Oct. 30.

So, approval of the budget amendment helps clean up the error regarding that issue.

But the city’s general fund and beginning fund balance also had some money coming in, $108,599. Additionally, the city received a COP grant for $40,742. Other funds came in from a Walmart gift card donation for Christmas gifts for community families ($1,000), a donation for refurbishing the Lincoln Park basketball court of $42,000, and a transfer from the capital project fund of $95,000 for recreational capital project costs. Included in that amount was $3,000 for the bleachers at the Northwest Recreation Complex, $20,000 for the Crystal Lake Parking Lot expansion, $35,000 for fencing at Crystal Lake Park, $10,000 for play system shade over at Stuart Park, $7,000 for a monument sign at Lake Wailes, and $20,000 for the engineering for the community park which will be located beside the new fire station. The city has also spent some money, noted by Ecklund in the general fund appropriated expenses, which increased to $338,610 from the $306,740. The city paid out $108,000 in the Lake Belle settlement, spent $187,000 on the recreational capital outlay, including $30,000 for the second play station at Crystal Lake Park and $62,000 for the Lincoln Park basketball court refurbishing.

Willow Lawn Cemetery required $9,890 for ground survey work and community service expenses included using the $1,000 Walmart donation for Christmas gifts for area families.

There was an increase in police operating supplies of $850 for vest carriers and Bluetooth mobile phone recorder, noted Ecklund’s memo.

Revenues for the library fund increased by $13,458 because of a decrease in the beginning fund balance of $15,060. There was an increase of $21,018 from the Polk County Library Cooperative, $4,500 interest income, and $3,000 from Raymond James, donated for the furniture.

Expenses for the library went up to $24,019 from $23,919 because of an increase of salaries for part time labor, $7,500, an increase in operating IT of $5,300 for three desk top PCs and additional bar scanner, an additional $4,000 spent on books and subscriptions. The library spent $7,119 for children’s furniture.

The city’s capital project fund revenues and beginning fund balance increased by $1,674,319, mainly due to the loan for the fire substation and the new cemetery addition ($1,700,000).

Expenses for the capital project fund increased by $145,000. It cost $25,000 for a master plan for the Lake Wailes Park horseshoe/fish pier area. An additional $25,000 was spent to improve parking in Lake Wailes Park across from Legion Field.

The police have put electric signs out there for a week or two, to encourage people to slow down for Little League season.

In other business, commissioners had previously approved a first reading of an ordinance that would allow a city commissioner, appointed official or officer, or employee to accept a gift of a value not exceeding $50 from a person or entity transacting business with the City. This would also require that the city official who accepts any gift exceeding that to report to the City Clerk within 30 days of receiving it.

Then there was the matter of compensation pay for city commissioners.

The commission adjusted the pay period to help reduce administrative payroll costs, Ecklund noted.

Currently, the city requires commissioners to be paid monthly while other city staff is paid bi-weekly.

The timing difference adds costs to process payroll, and the move to approve the time payment period.

“It will save on staff time and also on processing time from our vendor,” she said.

“So instead of the commission being paid once a month on the 15th, they will be paid bi-weekly,” she noted.

“Less work, less money,” the mayor noted.

The estimated annual cost saving is $975.

The second reading was approved unanimously.

New Business:

A resolution allowing the issuance of bonds in one or more series in the principal amount of not to exceed $4,141,000 was read.

Basically, this allows funds for the Edward W. Bok Academy project, and it would not cost the city anything.

The bonds would allow the refinancing of all or part of the money it cost to purchase and make improvements to Bok Academy Middle School.

Commissioner Mike Carter asked if the move would affect the city’s credit worthiness and City Manager Ken Fields said it does not.

However, Fields notes it reduces the amount the city itself could borrow by the $4,086,000. The city has the capacity to borrow up to $10 million if it needed to do so, but Fields says the city does not anticipate having to do so.

The funds the city had allotted for the bond issuance, previously approved, was $4,441,000, but Bok only needed $4,086,000.

The motion passed unanimously.


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