March 21, 2009

A Sharp Look At What Is Behind The Bailouts

Posted in The Economy at 11:33 am by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

In the beginning your gut told you that something has been going wrong for a long time.  You could not really explain it to yourself let alone anyone else.  You just started noticing disjointed things you heard and saw in the news as “what the heck” moments.  They were usually short quick stories that made you wonder what the heck are they thinking.

Most of what you see these days are smokescreens to the real economic problems.  This whole hurrah about bonus payments to execs at bailed out companies is a perfect example.  If they keep you mad about a fence post on fire you won’t notice the field is burning.

This whole scenario of whistle stop news stories is exactly that.  A smoke screen to keep you ignorant to what these giant “to big to fail” corporations and our elected officials are doing to the country.

Our politicians are bought and paid for by the big corporations.  We all knew it on some level.  Yet we keep reelecting them anyway hoping for a different outcome.  The majority of this country climbed on the Obama Band Wagon because he was going to bring change.  No one stopped to ask if the change he was bringing was the right change or not.  Just any change was okay as long as it did not affect the weekend plans.  No one stopped and thought about what the country really needed or even why it was needed.  They just wanted change.

Well baby, you got what you voted for.  He changed the names and thought up a few more.  But that is the extent of the change you will see.  Everything else is tripping down the road of economic doom.  The bailouts continue at an increasing rate with no end in sight.

One has to ask how this all came about in the first place.  Most news stories throw a couple dozen acronyms at you and say it is so confusing that not even the best investment wizards in the country can understand it.  This is not true at all.  That is just what you were suppose to hear so that you would stay dumb and not pitch a fit.

It is past time and you really need to know how all this has come about.  What set the stage and how it was arranged.

This is one of the best explanations in everyday words that is easy to understand about the whole bailout mess.  The source of the article is Rolling Stone Magazine of all places.  Be advised that they have a irreverent look on the situation and use language that is not for the youngsters.  Teens and adults will understand the anatomy and bodily function euphemisms used to make a point.

Enjoy “The Big Takeover”.

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March 20, 2009

Agenda, March Special Meeting

Posted in Agenda at 8:05 pm by thevoicesofstuart

Here is the agenda for the Monday night special council meeting.

Agenda, Special Meeting

March 10, 2009

March City Council Meeting

Posted in Council Meetings at 6:40 pm by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

2009/2010 Budget

The public hearing for the 09/10 city budget was opened and closed with no comments.  The council approved the budget which includes a 4% pay raise for city employees.

Swimming Pool Summer Program

Pool Manager Shannea Bower presented an outline of her proposed summer program to provide Red Cross classes and activities at the 5×80 pool for this summer.  Preliminary contacts have been made to establish availability and costs for pool use and transportation is being discussed with the school.  The council agreed that she should continue developing the information and present it at the next meeting.  They saw no problems as long as the costs stayed within the $20 k budget limit for the season.  The preliminary costs are estimated at $7.5k and will be refined as new information is acquired.

Renewal of the City Property Insurance

Mr. John Gulbranson presented the council with the renewal cost of the city insurance policy stating that the city received a $5k rebate on last years policy.  He further informed the council that the way EMS and Firemen rates are computed raised an issue on how Mr. Serber was classified and that because he now receives a salary from the city his premium will now increase approximately $5k a year if he remains classified as both aEMS and fireman.  Mr. Gulbranson informed the council that there may be a way to offset the increase if they adjusted their Inland Marine Policy by dropping all items with a unit cost of less than $1k.  The council discussed the need to have Mr. Serber remain as a volunteer fireman to avoid the premium increase.  Mr. Serber argued that being active in the fire department was one of the reasons that helped him decide to take a pay cut in accepting the EMS position in the first place.  He also pointed out that during the day he is one of 4 volunteer fireman available to respond if the need arises.  The council made and passed a motion to accept the renewal with Mr. Serber remaining classified as both a EMS and fireman with the provision that Mr. Gulbranson, Mr. Henderson, Mr. Ashour review the property list and determine if there is a way to offset the increase.  They are to present their recommendations at the next regular council meeting.

Downtown Improvement Plan – TIF Financial Assistance

Mrs. Audrey Wells presented the council with an overview of a Downtown Curb Appeal Improvement Plan with a request for TIF assistance.  Some of the highlights of the plan include improvement and or restoration of the front facades, windows, gutters, doors.  Only those things viewable from the curb will be eligible for assistance.  The area covered would be from the Cyclone to the Congo Church, Shaw/Belden to the old high school and R&D to the old Stuart Hotel.

She pointed out that based on the Chambers efforts and the White Pole Road Committee efforts the town has begun getting tour buses.  One bus 2 years ago.  Two buses last year and 3 buses scheduled for this year.  Based on this and the condition of the downtown the city is not ready for tourism.  The two biggest problems are that the downtown looks shabby and there are no places to spend money.  The most comments received from the tour coordinators is that there is no place to spend money here.  No shops, No souvenir places, no nothing.  The downtown just does not people to come and spend any time there.

The plan outlines that this is not a free handout.  The businesses will pay for one third of what is going to be done to their property with TIF paying two thirds.

This plan is still in the development stage and with council approval of the TIF assistance they will go forward with the process of establishing full guidelines and application procedures.  The council will have final approval on all applications for TIF use.  The Chamber will work as a go between and provide help to the businesses on their applications.

Mr. Belden informed the council that the bond attorney has stated that this type of TIF usage does not affect the city budget since it is a grant to businesses.  The council has control over the money and final say on the guidelines for improvement standards.

The council agreed to continue the program development.  A motion was made and passed support the program development.

No dollar amount of TIF to be used was mentioned during the discussion however a side question to Mr. Schultz indicated that it would be less than $50 k a year.

Depot Project Pay Estimate

A motion was made and passed to approve the pay estimate for the Depot Project.

School Storm and Sanitary Sewer Project

Mr. Ashour informed the council that the Utility Board has finished their plans for providing a water main to the new high school.  The council now needed to decide what they were going to provide for a sewer line.  Based of input received from Mr. Forrest Aldrich the school is providing a lift station so there is not need to go forward with a gravity line.  The use of a high pressure line will suffice.  The next steps needed are to contact the gas company and the church to get the necessary information to determine the route of the line which will affect the cost.  Mr. Airhart informed the council that if they go straight across from N. 2nd Street they will have to cross the gas main.  If they go south and east to behind the Vet Clinic they would not have to cross the gas main.  Dr. Arnold stated that they would have a meeting whenever the council was ready to proceed with the project.  The council made and passed a motion to split the cost of the sanitary line 50/50 with the school.

Police Department

New Vehicle Purchase – Robert presented the council with the estimate for a new police vehicle.  The estimates were for new Crown Victoria were $21 k and the Ford Explorer at $18 k.  The council made and passed a motion to set the public hearing to purchase a new police vehicle for the next regular council meeting.

Hiring – The council made and passed a motion to hire Randy Marchant  at $15 an hour as a part time police officer and to stop the overtime pay for the other officers.

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The Masonic Temple/new city building topic will be written tomorrow.

2009 Rate Survey Results in Substantial Hike

Posted in Council Meetings at 3:25 pm by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

Mr. Chip Schultz presented the council with the findings of the storm and sanitary systems rate survey.

This information affects the “SR” code line on your city bill only.

Mr. Schultz outlined the current unfunded storm and sanitary projects.  They are:  $665k for the new water treatment plant, $220k for the storm sewer upgrade on N. Harlan Street and re-routing the storm sewer around the new addition at the old high school, either $130k or $30k depending on the type of sanitary sewer required for the new high school and $20k for exigent cost over the year.  This totals to $1.025 m to cover all the projects.

He informed the council that the sewer rates had not been changed since 1987 and that the sewer fund had run on a deficit for the last two years.

Mr. Henderson asked if there was any provisions under to survey study to include adequate funds for the rehabilitation of existing systems and was told there was not.

The recommendations of the rate survey proposed a$4.50 hike to the basic rate effective 1 July 09 with a 15% further increase one year later.  This will take the basic rate from $15 a month to $19.50 a month.  There is a chart at City Hall that shows the breakout of the increases based on monthly usage you may view upon asking.

The council made and passed a motion to have the ordinance to change the rates written and ready for the next regular council meeting.

The new rates may go into effect earlier if the council decides to wave the 2nd and 3d readings of the ordinance.

March 8, 2009

Agenda, March City Council Meeting

Posted in Agenda at 7:42 pm by thevoicesofstuart

Here is the agenda for the Monday night city council meeting.

Agenda, March City Council Meeting

Along with the agenda I received a e-mail from Councilman Neal Crawford presenting a new development in the council decision on the city hall/library/police station project.  The e-mail is in reference to Item 12 on the agenda which is a presentation by Paige Williams on the Masonic Temple asking the city to review the possibility of purchasing and renovating the building before going forward with the new construction.  Mr. Crawford has asked for public feedback on this issue.

Here is the e-mail in its entirety.

E-mail from Mr. Crawford