By Lynn Janes
The town of Hurley held a budget workshop May 17, 2023, beginning with the roll call and the Pledge of Allegiance. Attendance to the meeting included Mayor Ed Stevens, Mayor pro tem Richard Maynes and councilors Nanette Day and Reynaldo Maynes. Keana Huerta didn't attend.
The council approved the agenda.
Lori Ortiz, city clerk, started the discussion about the upcoming budget. She had made the changes requested from the first budget workshop. One of the changes increased the budget for animal control to accommodate a full-time person. The council received the budget and it showed the difference that change would make. She also included some new line items to add the purchase of a washer and dryer, security cameras and pressure washer for the shelter. Ortiz said those items would cost about $2,000 but she added an extra $1,000 to make sure all would be covered.
Ortiz had included all of the current projects and the expiration dates for the funding.
William Jason Cox, animal control officer, said the security cameras he had been able to find would only cost $99 and had the function to alert him on his phone if set off.
Stevens wanted to make sure the budget for the coming fiscal year would keep them in the black and Ortiz said yes.
Cox had told Ortiz he could not do a full 40 hours because of another job. Day said it needed to be manned every day, and it can't always depend on volunteers to cover. They discussed having two part-time animal control officers and all agreed that they needed to do that. Ortiz reminded them that if an employee gets over 25 hours a week, they would be subject to PERA (Public Employee Retirement Association). The concern of having two animal control officers could cause a break down in communication. They decided to have one animal control officer and a person to take care of the kennels. Cox said they didn't have any dogs right now but he said he had to clean it well and then they could take dogs in.
Ortiz said the interim budget needs to be in by June 1, 2023 and then they would have to vote to accept the final budget by July 31, 2023.
An RFP (request for proposal) had gone out for solid waste removal and Ortiz said the service would change and will increase fees for the residents. Previously the cost had gone up and the city had paid the increase and not passed it on to the residents. Last year they thought they would have to change and Ortiz had started looking and sent out an RFP and the result had been a $40,000 to $60,000 increase a year. Ortiz had asked other municipalities about the containers and if it would be better for Hurley to supply them or the solid waste company. She had gotten from all of them it would be better for Hurley to supply them because many companies don't offer that service, and it would mean fewer people and less competition to reply to the RFP. They talked about looking for grants to obtain funding to pay for the trash containers.
Ortiz said they had funds left for water improvements and had not been able to get definitive information on what those funds could be used for.
Richard Maynes asked if pay raises had been included in the budget and Ortiz said $2 an hour across the board. Stevens said it would be worth it to help retain employees because of the expense to train people.
Ortiz thanked the council for their generosity with the pay increase. She said her goal has been to cross train in every department. Day asked if they had task lists for employees. They would be handy so if someone had to step in, they knew what they needed to do. Ortiz said that had been the reason for wanting cross-training.
Day asked about the income for animal licenses and if it included the new addition for chickens and rabbits. Ortiz said the budget only included the dog licenses.
Ortiz said she budgets high for expenses and low for income.
Day had questions about staff travel on the budget. Ortiz said they had talked about a new vehicle for travel and the mayor wanted to wait until they found funding to replace the current one. The one they have now would not be good for travel because it has problems. They have to figure different ways such as personal vehicles and flying.
Stevens asked the council and residents in attendance what they wanted to see done with what the town calls the Big Muddy. Right now, they have a roughly laid out plan for moving the train depot on it and to the side. Stevens had an architect's rendition of the plan for people to look at. Ortiz asked if they could add or remove from the architect's preliminary sketch. Stevens suggested they take a copy home and look at it and bring ideas to the next work session.
Day said they needed to decide who the users would be. Stevens said everyone in the community. It will be a center for the community. They had discussed it over a year ago. Ortiz suggested a survey sent to the residents. Right now, the sketch has a recreation area and walking path.
Day said the train depot would be for tourism and not the community. Stevens said he had to find a place to move the train depot because it could not be left on the current land to develop it. Five Points will be looking for funding to move it and put it back together because it will be a very large and costly project.
They had a lot of discussion about the use of the Big Muddy and what should go on it. Stevens said he wanted them to take home a copy of the sketch and come back with ideas and suggestions. It encompasses a large area. They also talked about possible problems because of people being there at night and causing residents in the proximity to have to deal with noise.
Ortiz said the money from the project was a quality-of-life grant in the amount of $278,000 and would expire in 2025.
Stevens asked if the walking path would be part of it. Ortiz said yes but have to work with the architect to decide where. She wanted them to know they needed to start sooner rather than later so they can show progress for the funding.
Day gave the council a presentation on the proposal for the dog park. It will be located at the end of 1st Street and near the historical cemetery. She had given them a drawing of ideas and broke it down into phases. They only have a budget currently of $50,000. It will be near the shelter so it can be used for adoptions. She broke it down into three areas, large dogs, small dogs and dogs that could not be with the others.
First, they would do a walking area with a fence line needing to be approximately 1350 feet and have places to sit and water for dogs. The second phase would be for the small dogs or individual dogs.
The plan would eventually include an agility and obstacle course. She added that a walking path could be tied into the Big Muddy trail. Stevens asked her if she had any idea how many people would use it and she said she had asked around and talked with the residents and thought 5-10 would use it every day. Day added they needed to include a washing station for the dogs. Reynaldo Maynes said looking at the plans it had been the nicest dog park he had seen. Day said it would help sell the town as family-friendly.
Stevens asked her about maintenance of the park. Day said the fence would be important and once up should not require any. They would provide dog refuse bags that some would use but might be one thing for maintenance. They would need to provide trash cans for the bags. "There should not be much maintenance once built, just upkeep."
A resident in attendance brought up the need for using pea gravel instead of wood chips. Wood chips would retain odor and would be bad for dogs to be chewing on.
Days said the park would mostly be used before and after work by the residents.
Stevens asked if she would be suggesting a large grass area and Day said no. She said she had walked the area and they wouldn't have to change anything and just use the lay of the land.
A resident brought up a concern. Having the dog park next to the shelter could cause the dogs in the shelter to be stressed. Maybe a better fence than the chain link or some kind of barrier would be needed. They talked about using old tires that would be free to make that barrier.
Day said the agility course could be done with recycled material and would not cost anything.
Richard Maynes said the recreation area and dog park seem to be the same objective and need a plan that brings them together. He said he liked the idea. Stevens said maybe Stantec could do a drawing. Richard Maynes said he would like more of a breakdown on the costs. Day said the project would have to be done in increments. Ortiz said an architect could give them cost estimates. Day said she had provided a color-coded map with the phases. Stevens talked about having an architect do a design with cost estimates.
Special meeting May 24, 2023 at 5:00 pm
Next regular meeting June 13, 2023, at 5:00 pm