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Valley City Council approves budget for 2020-21 fiscal year

VALLEY — The Valley City Council on Monday evening unanimously approved an $11.2 million budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, which begins on Thursday, Oct. 1.

Mayor Leonard Riley terms it a safe, conservative budget with some built-in flexibility. It includes a list of capital projects that may or may not be enacted, depending on how deep a possible recession could be next year. The city is ending 2019-20 on a high note with sales tax running an estimated $400,000 above the previous year. This could be attributable to people doing more shopping at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The continuing pandemic is also a factor in next year’s cautious budget. No one knows how the national economy will perform once the calendar year turns to 2021.

The proposed budget had been extensively reviewed in work sessions prior to the Monday vote. “I’m sure you are well familiar with it,” Riley told council members.

The budget projects a reserve of approximately $1.3 million.

Projects that have been committed to in the new budget include the purchase of three new police vehicles and the installation of new fire suppression systems for city hall and the police department.

These projects should be done this month.

“We are not going to wait to purchase the police cars like we did last year,” Riley said. “We will do it in October. We are looking at purchasing Tahoes this time.”

If sales tax holds up in 2021, the city will be purchasing some needed equipment for the Public Works Department.

Planning and Development Director Travis Carter told council members that if they haven’t driven past the Fairfax Mill site lately they should. Some big changes have been going on there. He said that an estimated 8,000 cubic yards of dirt had been hauled to the landfill and that the site is looking much better. The city has a $350,000 federal Brownfield grant to clean up the site, and a contractor has been hired to do that.

“They have done a really good job so far,” Carter said.

Valley Parks & Recreation Director Laurie Blount said that a Swim Academy would be taking place two nights every week in October.

“This will be a good opportunity for your child to learn how to swim,” she said.

Blount said she’s still trying to stir up interest in people playing whiffleball and kickball, two sports that can easily be done with social distancing. She said that a decision will be made this week on whether or not the recreation department would be having its annual fall festival on Oct. 31. Some thought has been given to having a scarecrow trail,  where businesses design and build their own scarecrows with judging being done by children seated in cars that are driving past. The winners would receive prizes and the kids would be getting bags of free candy for participating.

Police Chief Tommy Weldon said that his department is still waiting for a third police vehicle to arrive. Three were ordered in January, but COVID-19 hit and delayed delivery for an extended period of time. The first two Explorers arrived several weeks ago. The third was en route shortly after that.

“It was taken off a train in Atlanta on Aug. 8,” Weldon said. “We don’t know what has happened to it since.”

“We have had more trouble with these three cars than we’ve ever had with any others we have purchased,” Riley said.

Council Member Jim Clark was back for his first council meeting in several months.

“It’s good to be back,” he said. “I want to thank the mayor and council members for all the support they have extended me while I have been trying to get back to normal after having had this virus. I want to thank my wife and my family for finishing my campaign for me.”

Clark was elected to a four-year term in August. COVID-19 has had him down for the better part of ten weeks, but he’s feeling much better now.

“It’s good to have you back, Jim,” Mayor Riley said.

City Clerk/Treasurer Kathy Snowden previewed for council members what the city’s new website will look like. They were able to get an early look at the home page via the big screen TVs in the council chamber. Snowden said that it’s still a work in progress and will probably go live in November or December.

“All city departments are working on their content,” she said.

Travis Carter asked for and received the council’s permission for the city to clean up property located at 309 MLK Drive. The people who live there have not been paying their garbage bill and the service has discontinued. They have since been piling up bags of garbage outside their house. Carter said that it smells absolutely terrible to go near the property and is unquestionably a public nuisance. The Public Works Department can now go in and remove the piled up refuse. The city can then file a lien on the property to collect on the cost of doing that.

In other action, the council suspended the rules and adopted on a first reading an ordinance to sell some property on Hillsdale Road to Linda Heard and Donald Burton. The agreed-to price is $3,729.70. This compensates the city for cleaning up what had been a nuisance property.

The council approved proclamations recognizing Monday, Sept. 28 as “Family Day” in the city and Sept. 28 through Oct. 3 as “Family Week” in Valley and Oct. 1 as “Down Syndrome Awareness Day” and October as “Down Syndrome Awareness Month.”

The Family Day/Week proclamation underscores the importance of having two parents in a household.

An estimated 5,000 children are born every year in the U.S. with Down Syndrome, an estimated 85 of them are in Alabama. Down Syndrome is one of the leading causes of intellectual and developmental delay in the U.S.

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