Fiscal pie for Cambridge City Council

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CAMBRIDGE — The highlight of Monday night’s council meeting was Finance Director Ginger Heatwole’s quarterly financial statement. “What??” you might well say. I understand. I myself thought I might take a little snooze when it came up. Instead, I was fascinated. I admire intelligence and organization, and young Miss Heatwole has plenty of both. Now you may be thinking that I should not be giving any biased opinions, but remember, this is MY report, the proceedings filtered through my observations and reactions. I do not take MINUTES. There’s a tape recorder doing that, and you may find the minutes on line.

So, about the Finance Director’s report. Commissioner Frank Cooke says, ”Previously, commissioners had to ferret out the information from raw data. Now we can easily review the state of the city’s finances.” At the council meeting, the use of visuals projected on a screen clearly indicate the sources and uses of funds. Each slice of the pie shows the city’s functions and fiscal responsibilities. Ms. Heatwole can explain the whys. The conclusions are heartening: no new debt, old debt reduction, and operating efficiencies. Specifics are readily seen if you examine the budget pie. Have a piece of pie.

In another matter, the repaving of the 300 High Street block, the Commissioners heard from local postal authorities. The holes of the street are a menace to the trucks that must go in and out. The council approved the application for a $685,000 community grant and Acting Mayor Donald Sydnor signed a resolution of support for the project. If they didn’t, we might be spending an even greater amount for flat tires, broken axles, and medical attention for sprains and spills. Approval for events — a wedding, cleanup of a park, and the high school golf team — was unanimous and uneventful.

Council heard a report on the unfortunate fire at the American Legion and immediate efforts to recover. Also, an update on the Hearn building, (the shoring up of the front wall) and progress is reportedly underway with steel delivered, a crane located, and five full days of good weather a necessity.
The Gateway Demolition is going to happen. Bids were received for knocking down the defunct Burger King site. Would you believe the bids ranged from $30,000 plus to $80,000? Commissioners approved the low bid when Public Works Directer Odie Wheeler said he had checked out the parties and the low bidder was capable.

A few other matters with less impact on a majority of residents were also discussed, like increasing taxes. Hah! The City Manager, Sandra Tripp Jones, says that because many new properties have come onto the tax rolls, the expansion of the tax base could mean no tax increase for 2017. Commissioners voted 3-2 on the measure, with some commissioners wanting more time to explore the numbers.

The next council meeting is May 23 at 6 p.m. and it’s a public hearing on next year’s proposed budget. I bet they’ll be serving pie again.

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