No-shows hinder talks for #8216;Plan B#039;

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 20, 2005

Citizens and city employees came to Tuesday's special meeting of the Ironton City Council wanting answers, but with three councilmen missing, not many were provided.

The meeting had been heralded as a chance for residents and council to discuss the city's plan to fill a $330,000 to $500,000 projected budget deficit should a $10 municipal fee on the November ballot fail to pass.

Few concrete ideas came from the meeting from which councilmen Bob Isaac, Jesse Roberts and Richard Price were absent and most residents seemed to leave more frustrated than when they entered.

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Council Chairman Jim Tordiff, who will not be running again for his seat in November, spoke first, laying out the grim facts facing the city.

&#8220I think the municipal fee is a must, even if it fails in November, because it is what has to be done, I would support it without hesitation,” Tordiff said.

Using posters, Tordiff laid out the $3,979,681 in 2006 budget expenses, and the $3,643,480 budget that it would receive in terms of revenue into the general fund.

Tordiff insisted that the problem was larger than the upwards of $500,000 being discussed, that the problem would require $750,000, an assessment that finance director Cindy Anderson agreed with.

To illustrate his point, Tordiff posted a chart comparing police officer to citizen ratios throughout the area.

Ironton, with its 12 officers for 11,211 residents - 1 officer per 934 people - was the lowest by a large margin. In the immediate area, Russell, Ky. could boast a 1 to 363 ratio, Ashland, Ky., 1 out of 432, and Huntington, W.Va., the closest ratio to Ironton in the surrounding area, weighed in at 1 officer for every 561 people.

Should the city continue on its current trend without change in revenue or expenses, it would be sent into fiscal emergency, meaning the state would take control of the daily operations of the city.

Additionally, Anderson said that by her assessment, unless something drastic was done in the fourth quarter of this year, the city would not be able to meet its payroll expenses for the first quarter of 2006.

As Tordiff closed his case, and other councilmen explained their positions,

the crowd was more interested in hearing what would be done should the municipal fee fail, rather than encouragement for citizens to vote for it.

Councilman Chuck O'Leary explained that he supported putting the fee on, but wanted the city to decide if it wished to maintain its current level of services or see them cut.

&#8220We're going to have to pull togetherŠ $10? I'm not for $10. You're going to get mad at me, but I'm for $15,” O'Leary said. &#8220We just have to decide … what's our tolerance? What are we going to do without? If we don't put on a municipal fee, if we say no Š we're going to have to pick and choose what we want.”

Councilman Bill Nenni stood by his feeling that a large financial decision like a municipal fee should not be made by the council, and that it should be put into the hands of the voters.

Although Councilman Brent Pyles did not have a specific answer as to what he would cut should the municipal fee fail, he did say that police and fire would be the last departments that he would look at.

Throughout the evening, police and fire workers continued to plead for some sort of concrete answer: What was &#8220Plan B”? Would their jobs be safe?

Although the meeting was ended after more than two hours of heated debate, most didn't seem to feel that they got the answer they came for.

&#8220No, (I got) nothing, nothing at all. It was just some infomercial supporting the municipal fee,” said Joe Marshall, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 532 union. &#8220I'm pretty disappointed.”