Councilwoman says the city should begin biting the bullet in preparing for the 2003 budget.
By TIM YOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
GIRARD -- Mayor James J. Melfi says the city is approaching a crossroads where it must sell the Girard Lakes to maintain services.
At Monday's city council meeting, Melfi reiterated his position that the lakes and the property around them must be sold to generate revenue.
The city administration, he said, wants to maintain current services, current employee levels and returned laid-off workers to their jobs.
The city, which has been under state-imposed fiscal emergency since August, is facing having to make $1.1 million in cuts in the 2003 budget.
Before the meeting, council's finance committee voted to provide lawmakers with a balanced 2003 budget.
"We might as well bite the bullet and do our jobs," Councilwoman Kathleen O'Connell Sauline, D-2nd, who chairs the finance committee, told fellow committee members.
Sauline wanted the balanced-budget committee vote to demonstrate to the Girard Financial Planning and Supervision Commission, which oversees the city's fiscal policy, that council wants to cooperate with it.
Determining what's needed
Sauline said she will schedule hearings with department heads and union representatives to consider what services are essential and how to reduce the deficit.
The city is "not bloated" with employees, Melfi said, noting the city "can just get by" with current staffing levels.
He pointed to the police department where there are eight vacancies, staffing that has resulted in criticism of Melfi by Police Chief Anthony Ross and other department members.
Sauline asserted the city has been at a crossroads since Jan. 1. And, she added, city services will not be the same in 2003 and 2004.
Melfi admitted he has no offers to purchase the lakes, but they should go on the auction block as soon as they are appraised.
Councilman Charles Doran, D-4th, chairman of council's property research committee, continued his position that efforts to explore other revenue-generating methods should continue so the lakes aren't sold.
Doran admitted he doesn't have a plan concerning the lakes or repair of the Girard Lower Lake Dam.
Doran announced his committee will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in the multigenerational center with representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Ohio Department of Natural Resources to discuss the dam.
Meanwhile, council approved legislation to seek bids to repair outlet valves at the dam.