The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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October 10, 2013

Conneaut may transfer its savings to other uses

CONNEAUT — The city of Conneaut may shift money it has tucked away to aid depleted departments and municipal project.

This week, City Council generally agreed to reduce its yearly carryover reserve from 20 percent to 15 percent, a move that would generate an estimated $200,000. The sums freed for other uses is conditional, however, and depends on whether any sizable expenditures suddenly surface, said City Manager Tim Eggleston.

One potentially big unknown is the city’s ongoing contract negotiations with members of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 51, Eggleston said. The matter is before an arbitrator and a ruling is expected soon.

“That will change the dynamic dramatically,” he said.

Finance Director John Williams this week said a 20 percent carryover is a “very healthy number,” but one the city could probably afford to trim. “Anything above 10 percent is pretty good,” he said.

The reason for the healthy savings is the city’s reluctance to replace workers when they resign or retire, Eggleston said. “We haven’t filled positions,” he said.

City Council members at a recent finance/ordinance committee meeting quickly offered suggestions on how to spend any extra cash. Ward 3 Councilman Richard McBride favored adding staff to the police department, while Councilman-at-large Neil LaRusch likes the idea of bolstering the inspection staff in the

planning/zoning department.

Ward 1 Councilman Doug Hedrick, chairman of council’s economic development committee, said he would like to see money be pumped into community enhancement, especially in the downtown district.

Also this week, two officers with D-Day Conneaut asked the city to consider waiving some of the fees it would charge the re-enactment group when it upgrades water service to its future museum. The organization recently acquired the First Hungarian Reformed Church at Lake Road and Harbor Street and plan to transform the building into a World War II museum that could open in a few years.

One cost-cutting option under consideration may be to charge the D-Day group only for the material used in their water project. “It would be a meager cost for what (the organization) provides for the city,” said Council President Thomas Udell.

D-Day Conneaut’s August re-enactment attracted more than 15,000 people, organizers said.

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