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Baseball field upgrade hits snag

Published 11:46am Tuesday, December 31, 2013

City’s general fund reserve drops below 25% of total budget

The Hartselle City Council is considering upgrading the lighting at Reuben Sims Field, but a lower than anticipated general fund has caused the city to put the project on hold for now.

In December, City Clerk Rita Lee informed council members at a called meeting that the general fund balance had dropped to around $2.4 million, which is less than 25 percent of the total budget for this year. The general fund balance at the end of FY 2013 was $3.7 million.

That violates a resolution passed by the city council to keep at least 25 percent of the total budget in the general fund balance.

Council president Bill Smelser said he is concerned about the general fund’s balance, but he said it shouldn’t affect the day-to-day operations of the city.

“That resolution was more of a guideline to make sure that we had a safety valve at all times,” Smelser said. “It won’t affect us right now, but it is definitely something we’re monitoring especially as we are trying to do this project.”

Mayor Don Hall said the general fund took a big hit in December as the city had to pay $466,000 out of the general fund for an upgrade to the soccer fields, all of which will be refunded by TVA grant money over the next five years.

The city also had to make a school bond issue payment, which also drained the city’s reserves.

“That’s why our general fund is so low right now,” Hall said. “We’re concerned about it, but it should recover after additional tax revenue comes in.”

Councilman Tom Chappell brought the issue to the council after Hartselle Utilities was planning to replace the oil transformers at the field due to safety concerns.

So he proposed changing the lights at the same time that HU would replace the transformers. It could cost as much as $200,000 to replace the lighting system.

Hall said he wants to see how long HU can wait to replace the lights to allow the general fund an opportunity to recover.

In the meantime, Smelser wants the city to meet with School Superintendent Dr. Vic Wilson and baseball coach William Booth to see if they would be able to assist with the lighting project.

However, it may be too late to do something before the start of this season.

“We ran into this problem last year,” Smelser said. “We’d like to see if the school system and the baseball program would be able to help with the project, since they are the primary ones using the field. It might be getting to be too late to do something before this season, but it’s something that we’d like to do.”


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