The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

December 14, 2013

New Clinton councilmen oppose CIP plan

By Amy Kent Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — Despite reservations from the community, the Clinton City Council has approved a $10.3 million Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for the fiscal year 2015 budget.

During a public hearing Tuesday, three councilmen-elect expressed their opposition and concern with the CIP plan, saying they do not want to take on the responsibilities the current council is burdening them with.

"When the new council is seated, I myself will diligently try to convince my colleagues to take all this off. We need to start with a budget that is bare bones," councilman-elect Ed O'Neill said. "To drop $10 million in the 2015 budget is a lot to put around our necks."

Councilman-elect Grant Wilke agreed with O'Neill and added that although the city does need some kind of plan, approving the CIP is putting them into an even deeper financial hole that will be difficult to come out of.

"You do have to give them credit because we have not had a plan as far as I know, of where the city's going," Wilke said. "The problem I have though is with the money that we do not have, to vote on this. I think it's premature on putting this forward because I just don't think we can afford it."

However, the council members assured those concerned that although they approved the CIP, the city is not bound financially to any of the projects, and the future council will have the decision to move them forward or not.

"It's an important thing to do as a city, is plan where you're going and not just have knee-jerk reactions to everything that comes up," Ward 4 Councilman Paul Gassman said. "These are not commitments, these are ideas of what needs to be done in the future, when we can afford it, and all the new council that comes in will have the opportunity to vote on every one of those projects."

Despite Gassman's remarks, Councilman-elect Tom Determann still felt it would be fiscally irresponsible for the city to take on such a heavy 2015 budget while it is struggling with current debt.

"I think we're going to have a tough enough time to do the budget," Determann said.

The visitors on Tuesday were not the only ones concerned with the decision to approve the Capital Improvement Plan. Council members John Rowland and Julie Allesee also had reservations about the city's financial future.

"I think it sends a very mixed message to the public when we would approve tonight here the $10.3 million. I understand very well that it doesn't necessarily commit the council but in the packet it is very clear that it does put it into the budget so you're going to have to, through budget sessions, take it out," Rowland said.

The $10.3 million is part of an even larger, six-year plan for more than $67 million of capital improvement projects that was approved Tuesday.