City council looks to bright future

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 14, 2005

The election is over and the voters have had their say about new city leadership and their rejection of a municipal fee.

With at least a $350,000 deficit staring them in the face, the ball is now in the hands of the new council that takes over Dec. 1.

Although they are not yet as informed as they would like to be about the city's problems, the overriding message from current and future city leaders seems to be one of unity.

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&#8220I know we're not in a good state,” newly elected councilman Rich Blankenship said. &#8220But we need to know the actual figures, and what I think we need to do is sit down and discuss all the issues.”

Bob Cleary, a city politics veteran, said he shares the feelings of the political newcomer.

&#8220I think council is going to have to work together,” Cleary said. &#8220For too long there's been a division on council that's created a lot of problems throughout the community.

We've got to work out the issues and get unified, and I think that would be a real start for the city.”

Cleary admits that the first place city leaders will have to put their heads together - not only with one another but with the public - is in the city's financial problems.

&#8220I expect to see some finance committee meetings and probably a few meetings with public input, but I think once we weed through all that we'll have a new plan in place.”

Blankenship is eager to begin work on the budget and finding new revenue streams. One option that he suggests is helping the city step into the digital age.

&#8220We need to market Ironton,” Blankenship said. &#8220I guess one way would be on the Internet. We need to upgrade our Web site to include more information about Ironton.”

Although he isn't sure what solutions will be uncovered, one thing seems clear for Cleary. A budget deficit - such as the one currently projected - is not an option.

&#8220In all the experience I have in city government we have never started a new year in the red,” Cleary said. &#8220We'll probably end up doing a temporary budget for the first quarter of 2006 just to keep the ball rolling.

&#8220But maybe even within the month until the year's end we may be able to work out some sort of guideline for a budget to carry us through 2006 without being in the red. Being in the red is unacceptable.”

Departing council chairman Jim Tordiff said that whatever the budget path that's selected, it must include additional revenue, as opposed to making cuts.

&#8220Long story short, to me, if the city wants to remain city status and try to lure residential and commercial growth, I don't think we can afford to slide backwards and cut services,” Tordiff said. &#8220We're just not going to give people a reason to come.”

Mayor John Elam isn't sure if a new budget will be hammered out by year's end, but he does know that he's willing to do whatever it takes to help council find a financial solution.

&#8220Certainly I and the people in my administration have been looking at it,” Elam said. &#8220And I will work with council however long it takes for them to have a comfort level with the financial situation that we're currently in.”

For his part, Elam said he remains positive about Ironton's future, which will hinge, as it always has, on its people.

&#8220I think that the best thing that Ironton has going for it is that it has a lot of people who share the same vision of a town progressing forward.”

Staff reporter Justin McElroy can be reached at (740) 532-1445 ext. 14 or by e-mail at