Saturday, December 14, 2013

TOP STORY >> Ward approves $1.39M budget

Leader staff writer

The Ward City Council this week passed a $1.39 million general fund budget for 2014 and a $2.7 million budget for water and wastewater.

General fund revenue is up slightly from 2013, when the council passed a $1.35 million budget. But the budget for water and wastewater is the same.

The general fund budget includes 3 percent pay raises for hourly workers and 4 percent raises for department heads.

Mayor Art Brooke’s salary was increased from $30,000 to $32,500. The mayor said, when his salary was raised from $25,312 to $30,000 in 2012, he didn’t intend to run for a fifth term and that the increase was necessary to attract a good replacement. But supporters have asked him to run again, Brooke said, so that is what he will do.

The council also approved a $1,000 pay raise for part-time Clerk-Treasurer John Barclay, bringing his salary to $13,000.

In a breakdown by department, the budget includes $546,500 for the police department, $208,200 for the fire department, $77,700 for parks and $451,700 for the street department.

The council also unanimously approved changes in the city’s 1995 zoning ordinance to include three distinct development districts – the downtown area, an area near Ward Central Elementary and an area in the southern part of the city – that would include mixed-use commercial and residential with no barriers to separate the two.

The plan for the districts was created by Metroplan. The council adopted the plan after three separate readings during three successive council meetings to ensure that the public was aware of the changes.

Now that the changes are part of the city’s zoning ordinance, all development in the districts — which are one-quarter mile in radius — must comply with the plan.

All the houses built inside the three districts must have front porches. All parking for businesses and houses must be in the rear.

There will be no parking on the streets in the three districts, and there will be no driveways leading to garages attached to the sides of houses. Both front and side setbacks will be narrower. So buildings will be closer together and closer to streets.

When they are built on, the three new districts will be similar to neighborhoods during the 1800s or early 1900s, when people walked between houses and visited with neighbors sitting on their front porches.

The design would create a sense of place for the people who live there, Metroplan deputy director Richard Magee and Metroplan GIS planner Jeff Runder told the city council when they introduced the changes during the October council meeting.

Crime could potentially go down as residents get to know their neighbors, they claimed. And speeders would likely slow down because the close proximity of buildings and streets is conducive to lower speeds, the Metroplan representatives said.