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The Cedar Key City Commission meeting on Monday had a short agenda and was fairly uneventful - for a change. The proposed millage rate of 3.6548 was announced and adopted by a 3 to 2 vote, with Commissioners Scott Dennison and Heath Davis casting opposing votes.
The adoption of the final budget took a bit longer with Davis outlining how hiring an interim, part-time city administrator would save the city money. Davis cited the grants that Community Redevelopment Agency Director Greg Lang has obtained for the city and indicated Lang would be able to accomplish similar cost-saving measures for the city if he worked as the administrator. “Oversight is the most crucial this budget year by someone with management and decision-making capability” and he added that “I don’t like the budget, but it is what it is.”
Commissioner Sue Colson said that Lang showed “extraordinary stewardship” in his management of the Cresswell House project, adding that it is only about “$5,000 that we are debating in the budget and that we blow that on fire works and the Shell Pile without much consideration.”
Colson said, “We need to at least try this for 90 days.” She added that that Lang has not been paid for his work on the city budget. She said he would probably be able to quickly resolve some of the last sticking points of the garbage billing issues and probably save the city money because Deputy Clerk Teresa George would not have to deal with it.
Dale Register commented that he worked 37 years in the telecommunication business, managing multi-million dollar budgets and has paid a lot of taxes. He said management by committee doesn’t work, adding that the city needs budget control, communication and leadership. He went on to say, “I’d like my tax money to pay for that position and my tax bill alone more than covers the proposed $5,900 (line item) for the position.”
Commissioner Gene Hodges wanted to cut $5,900 off the CRA budget and add it to the city budget but the consensus of the Commission was that it wasn’t fair to add duties and not add pay.
Davis restated his position that the commission cannot handle day-to-day administration as a commission. “We need to have oversight. We don’t have a choice.”
Mayor Pat O’Neal said that he was not opposed to the idea but it is a little premature.
Vanessa Edmunds spoke up from the audience and asked if any money was budgeted for fireworks this year and got no for an answer. “So, $1,490 for 90 days work is all we are arguing about? Seems to be not very much money for 90 day’s work,” she said. She was not in favor of simply swapping out the source of the money and not making it a raise in salary.
Dennison — newly released from the hospital — wanted it noted for the record that he was not on the CRA board when the bond was discussed and adopted. He added his feelings that the millage rate is too high, voted against it and thinks that sufficient cuts in the budget have not been made.
By the end of the meeting, Dennison moved to vote on the budget so the city can continue to operate, however Colson wanted to amend it to remove the commissioners’ expense line item and use that $2,000 for fund the 90-day administrator trial.
The vote was all in favor.