Good night, I can't believe that it has gotten this far and no one can agree on anything
New Albany council looks for ways to save sanitation
By Ben Zion Hershberg
Members of the New Albany City Council discussed cutting the city's 2006 budget yesterday to save the Sanitation Department from privatization, with some of the talk focusing on the city's financial commitment to the Scribner Place development downtown.
But they didn't agree on what, if anything, can be done.
Councilman Steve Price said he believes that several hundred thousand dollars can be trimmed in equipment, travel and other discretionary costs from many different departments.
He also said he believes that the city's proposed $400,000 annual commitment of economic development income-tax revenue to Scribner Place can be cut substantially, especially if county government takes part, saving up to $265,000 a year.
"It has to be across the board" that city government tightens its belt, he said.
"The cuts are here" if city leaders are willing to make them, Price said.
Councilwoman Beverly Crump said after the meeting that "there is a possible way to fund sanitation."
But she said she doesn't know if the budget cuts discussed last night are practical, and she doesn't want to risk plans for financing Scribner Place.
Mayor James Garner didn't attend last night's meeting. His announcement last month that he intends to privatize most city garbage collection and recycling services precipitated much of the discussion.
He said he intends to complete a contract with Industrial Disposal Co. soon so it can take over city garbage collection and recycling by Oct. 3, immediately eliminating the Sanitation Department losses, which are projected at nearly $800,000 this year.
Garner said the eight-year contract would keep the city's monthly sanitation fee at the current $13.75 a household through next year.
The city's 26 sanitation workers and many supporters from the public have opposed Garner's plan.
"How difficult would it be to put together a budget that has sanitation in the general fund?" Councilman Dan Coffey asked.
City controller Kay Garry said it costs about $2.6 million a year to operate the department, and it brings in about $1.9 million.
"What department of city government are you going to take $700,000 from?" Garry said.
She said after the meeting that she didn't hear anything that would save the department from privatization.
Garry said she will submit the $16.1 million budget the administration has proposed to the City Council for a public hearing and first vote on Sept. 8. It will be up to the council to act at that point, she said.
Price said he will continue to discuss possible budget cuts with his colleagues to see if he can get enough support to enact them next month