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City frees flooding fund fix
Oct 04, 2012 4:00 pm
In a meeting that took less than 10 minutes, the Lebanon City Council approved on second reading a ordinance to authorize a line item transfer for drainage maintenance and improvements throughout the city.
In a surprise move during Tuesday's council meeting, councilors passed the first reading of measure to free reserve funds to address flooding after Monday evening's storms and heavy rainfall brought the situation to a head. Councilors said they had been inundated with calls about flooding in their districts.
Tuesday, Ward 3 Councilor Rob Cesterino proposed giving each ward $50,000 from reserves to address the problem. Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Huddleston countered with a motion to give each city ward $100,000 to work on flooding issues. The council ultimately voted in favor of releasing a total of $600,000 from reserves to address flooding issues immediately.
The council also agreed to meet again Wednesday night for a second reading of the proposed ordinance.
Speaking Wednesday morning, Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead said he was surprised by the council's move, but thought it was a good idea.
"I'm excited," he said, adding that before he and the council had been cautious about releasing reserve funds in light of the struggling economy.
He also noted that the "Pennies for Progress" campaign to convince voters to raise the city sales tax by half a cent, if passed, would give the city a cushion to deal with the unexpected.
"With Pennies for Progress, we could add to reserves every year to take care of these issues," Craighead said.
At Wednesday's meeting, Craighead praised the council for addressing the problem.
"I commend the council for taking this step to let the people of Lebanon know we're concerned," the mayor said.
Cesterino echoed the mayor's earlier sentiments about the need for the sales tax increase.
"When people decide on the half cent sales tax increase at the polls, we want them to recognize that if we went to continue to do these things to help them, we'll need that," he said.
City Finance Director Russell Lee told the council he had set up six separate accounts to track what is spent in each of the six city wards.
Public Works Commissioner Jeff Baines gave each councilor a list of needed drainage improvements the city had been considering before the initial vote. He asked them to look over the items in their ward to help the city prioritize which projects need to be done first in each ward.
Cesterino told the council he planned to hold a public meeting for the people in his ward to let them help decide what drainage problems are the most pressing.
"I'll hold a meeting for Ward 3 here or at Baird Chapel to let them speak to experts and be heard about their issues," he said.
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 615-444-3952, ext. 45 or email@example.com