February 27, 2003
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No annual spring cleanup or brush pickup this year

Concerned about the long-term financial health of the Village, Council agreed last week to suspend this year’s annual spring cleanup and brush pickup as well as to sell two residential properties that the Village owns. Council also agreed to form committees to review the public pool and the Village solid waste fund.

These decisions are not surprising. As Village Council members reviewed the 2003 budget last month, they indicated their intention to implement cost-saving measures as well as begin to review struggling services, such as the pool and the solid waste fund.

Several of the budget cut ideas came from a report by the blue ribbon finance committee, which was charged with reviewing Villagw services and its revenue streams. The report contained options to increase revenue and cut costs, as well as an overview of the Village’s capital improvement needs.

After the report was completed in January, Council began discussing the committee’s suggestions for closing gaps in the Village budget.

Council’s most significant decision is the postponement of spring cleanup and the brush pickup, which is held during the weeklong spring cleanup. Postponing both activities were among the options identified by the finance committee.

Council unanimously agreed at its meeting Feb. 18 to postpone the events this year, which will save the Village an estimated $30,000. Council did not suspend a third option identified by the finance committee, an extra-item pickup service.

Taking a year off from spring cleanup and brush pickup “can’t do that much harm,” Council president Tony Arnett said, adding that if the Village finds an alternative service later in the year Council would consider implementing it.

In addition to postponing the cleanup, Council agreed to form a solid waste fund review committee. Based on a charge from Arnett, Council wants the committee to study the fund’s rate structure, which expires in August, and its services, including the recycling program and the suspended activities.

The group will also recommend to Council a new rate structure, based on current costs and usage.

The problem with the solid waste fund is that it does not generate enough revenue to support itself. The fund has maintained a financial balance over the last three years due to subsidies from the Village multi-fund. This year, the multi-fund will provide solid waste with $17,000.

Village Manager Rob Hillard has said that the system is struggling because the fund now pays for additional services, such as spring cleanup and the brush pickup, that were once supported by the multi-fund. The system’s rates are “covering what it was intended to cover,” he said earlier this month.

Like the solid waste fund, the Gaunt Park Pool cannot support itself financially. Last year, Council moved to close the economic gap by approving a new two-year fee structure. A second fee increase will be implemented this spring, when the Village starts selling season pool passes.

The pool generated $24,000 in income last year, while it cost $75,000 to run the pool. The new fee structure more than doubled the pool’s revenue in 2002. The Village has also tried to cut costs at the pool.

Last week, Council agreed to form a committee to review the public pool, based on a charge proposed by Council member Denise Swinger, who will also serve on the board.

The pool committee will study the pool’s rate structure and its operations “to determine the effectiveness and quality of service,” Swinger wrote in her proposal. In addition, the committee will consider adding concessionary services at the pool, which could be provided by either contracted vendors or volunteers.

The pool group will also examine the feasibility of starting a capital campaign drive to raise funds for major repairs and improvements at the pool. Several years ago, the Village identified a significant, and expensive, project, repairing the pool’s leaking gutter. The Village, however, has not been able to fund the project, which costs an estimated $100,000.

Hillard stressed that the committee would provide recommendations that the Village could use to run the pool. The group will not manage the pool, he said.

Council also made a fourth decision last week, saying that the Village will sell two rental properties on State Route 343. Council did not take a formal vote, though Council member George Pitstick said, “Our intention is to get out of the real estate business.”

“I haven’t seen a large public purpose for renting these properties,” Hillard said.

Still, he urged Council to approach the sale with “lots of discussion and compassion” since, he said, the tenants have lived in the homes for a “long time.” Hillard said that he would report to Council in July on the possible sale.

When asked how the Village would use the proceeds from the sale, Arnett said, “We haven’t expressed any indication as to how the money would be used.”

The blue ribbon finance committee suggested the Village sell the rental properties and use the earnings to fund capital improvement projects. The committee estimated the Village could receive $155,000 by selling the properties.


—Robert Mihalek