GCS continues work on next year’s budget

Stormwater projects for Julia, West streets high on city’s list

By Nick Blank
Posted 8/14/19

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – City council members addressed more than 20 items Tuesday including capital projects, information technology and a wage study at their third budget workshop.

Rep. Ted Yoho, …

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GCS continues work on next year’s budget

Stormwater projects for Julia, West streets high on city’s list

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – City council members addressed more than 20 items Tuesday including capital projects, information technology and a wage study at their third budget workshop.

Rep. Ted Yoho, (R-3), arrived five hours into the meeting for 45 minutes, and he heard from city officials about capital projects.

“It’s not my office, it’s your office,” Yoho said.

High on Green Cove’s list were two stormwater projects on Julia Street, $860,000, and West Street, $2 million. Council members and staff aimed to acquire $300,000 for playground equipment and permanent restrooms at the Augusta Savage Friendship Park and $500,000 to renovate unoccupied classrooms in the Augusta Savage Arts & Community Center.

Assistant City Manager Mike Null said the city was set to rebuild the police pier, south of Spring Park, with a kayak launch. He said the city would request money for infrastructure needed to support launching a police boat.

Yoho and his Deputy Chief of Staff, Kat Cammack, noted the requests and said they would support Clay’s municipalities. Yoho mentioned the success of Alachua’s biotech park and the windfall of grants coming to Putnam County. He said the region was poised for economic development.

“You’re going to be the ones to offer something unique,” Yoho said.

City officials went department by department earlier in the meeting. Most departments saw little change from the previous year’s budget, with council members discussing possible changes.

City Manager Steve Kennedy started the workshop mentioning the $15,000 the city pays for the lobbying services of the Fiorentino Group. Kennedy asked what the results from the lobbying were and if there was a way to measure direct benefits. Kennedy was hired last September and wasn’t present when the firm was contracted.

“I’m not recommending one way,” Kennedy said. “As we were looking at balancing the budget, we always look at those things that produce immediate results and those things that are time sensitive or perpetuate themselves.”

Council Member Mitch Timberlake said it was important for the city to clarify its goals to the lobbyist.

“I remain convinced that having a lobbyist can be an advantage for us as a city,” Timberlake said. “I don’t know in the past if we’ve done that good of a job saying, ‘These are the things we expect. This is what we’d like.’”

Council Member Van Royal said the $15,000 was well spent and Council Member Connie Butler agreed the city should provide more specifics.

In other business, Green Cove hasn’t conducted a wage study since 2014. There are 185 different types of jobs within the city and some duties have changed. The city currently has 27 employees making less than $14 an hour.

Human Resources Specialist Mary Jane Lundy said if the city added a 2% cost-of-living adjustment and 1% wage increase it would still have 12 employees under the city’s goal of $14 an hour. A wage study may cost $14,000-$20,000, Lundy said.

Lundy said the city had a turnover rate between 36-39% the last few years. An issue was compression, where a multi-year veteran would make the same as a new hire due to COLA.

“That's been one of the biggest complaints since I’ve been here,” Lundy said.

In January 2020, Microsoft will not provide security updates for Windows 7. Network Administrator Angel Alicea said the city had 37 computers using Windows 7 operating systems.

The Information Technology expenses for the coming year tentatively stood at $171,633. A portion of the funds would go to improving the city’s backup files. The threat of Ransomware is ever present, he said. Lake City paid about $485,000 in bitcoin to get its phone and email systems back.

“Just to be on the safe side, I have a hard backup with tape,” Alicea said.

The city will finalize the fiscal year 2019-2020 budget at its meetings on Sept. 3 and Sept. 17.

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