New city hall, budget among PH issues
Pinehurst budget talks got underway Tuesday as city council members looked at possible increases, ways to save money and discussed future plans for what will be the new city hall building on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
As the workshop began, City Manager Robert Ewart recommended a finance proposal by Community Bank to help the city buy the Technical Resource building to replace the city’s more than 50-year old city offices.
Nothing can be finalized until approved by council. The next council meeting is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 24.
The bank would offer 1/2-percent financing the first year, which would increase slightly for 15 to 20 years.
“I don’t think you’d find a better deal unless you robbed a bank,” Ewart said. It was such as good deal, he added, it just might keep the new tax rate to around 6 cents.
“That’s much less than the 8 cents we had anticipated,” he said.
The Technical Resource building, owned by Fred Thompson, was appraised earlier this year by a Beaumont firm at about $747,000.
Council heard a presentation from Steve Carroll of Republic Services, which acquired Allied Waste Management in 2009. He projected a five-year increase on costs, however, noting that the final figure, $13.50 per month, would still be less than costs of surrounding cities.
Officials said they would likely stay with Republic, with the option of renewing/terminating a contract annually. Councilmen Bill Triggs and Robert “Bob” Williams said they believed most residents were happy with the twice-a-week service.
Ewart said he saw no way around a possible 10 cents per 1,000 increase, each, for water and sewer services.
“The cost of business goes up,” he said. “That includes cities, although some people don’t like to think so.”
However, he recommended keeping two police dispatchers on with the city, and contracting the rest out.
“It’s been talked about for years,” he said. “Because it makes sense.”
Such a move could save the city some $60,000-$70,000 per year, he said.
Mayor T.W. Permenter called the idea “good economics.”
Law enforcement concerns
Police Chief Fred Hanauer III said the department would likely renew an agreement it previously had with Precinct 2 Constable Rob Strause’s office.
The agreement gives Pinehurst officers wider levity and jurisdiction on countywide drug busts and other investigations, and was successful last year.
Councilman Dan Barclay said, and Hanauer agreed, that while city officials wanted to see drugs off the street, the contract should not deter the department’s prime mission of protecting Pinehurst’s citizens.
Remembering ‘Miss Bessie’
In their evening prayer those gathered Tuesday paid tribute to the late Bessie Huckaby, who passed away this past week.
Huckaby had served as councilwoman through many Pinehurst administrations, including those of mayors Pete Runnels, Ricky Trevino, Billy Permenter and T.W. Permenter.
Sitting in her council seat for the time being is area businessman and former Orange Mayor Dan Mohon.