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Emphatic ‘No’s’ stall Rockwood budget again

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By Cindy Simpson

Rockwood officials sped through a list of amendments to a proposed 2013 budget before failing to pass a first reading at a recent special-called meeting.
One of the hot-button amendments that failed was to return funding for a city administrator, which is now empty since the vacancy of recently dethroned Jack Miller.
Council members Pete Wright, Jason Jolly and Jane Long voted down returning the funding for the position despite Vice Mayor Peggy Evans’ earlier pleas to the contrary.
Both Wright and Jolly said they agreed the city needs the position, but thought it was something that should be put off for now.
 “I think it is something I’d like to review down the road,” Jolly agreed.
“I think we need to try and get our finances in order,” Wright said.
Evans and Councilman Mike Freeman both stressed why they thought funding the position is vital.
“I think this is necessary for us to be, for us to have our city run the way that it should. Mrs. Ruppe, I don’t think, can absorb any more responsibilities than she has now,” said Evans.
“I think we need a full-time city administrator that will be here every day,” Freeman said.
Evans passed on the first reading of the budget, with Freeman voting against it.
Both advocated for further cuts in the budget. Freeman mentioned the city spends several hundred dollars on coffee. At one time the city had spent as much as $700 on the brew.
Jolly also mentioned that employees may be consuming drinks purchased for the park and recreation department to sell.
Ruppe confirmed they would be implementing cash registers again at the park and recreation complexes.
Evans asked Mayor James Watts what else he thought he could cut.
Watts responded he didn’t see anywhere else the council could pare down.
“I think we cut everything we can cut,” Watts said.
Watts expressed frustration following the meeting that council wouldn’t agree on a budget. 
“There is no reason they cannot approve this budget,” Watts said. “I brought up everything they asked for.”
Council also voted down a proposed amendment to change the proposed property tax increase from 95 cents to 90 cents per $100 valuation. Currently the tax rate is 75 cents per $100 valuation.
Jolly felt it would counteract the work done to raise money.
“(Councilman Bill) Thompson went on and on for a long time about a rainy day fund. I feel that’s $40,000 that we could use,” Jolly said. Thompson was absent from last Monday’s meeting.
One proposal that passed easily was to amend the budget to only put in $20,000 each in the park and recreation director and public works positions, so that when they revisit those vacant positions in December there will be money there if council sees fit to fill the vacancies. Former Public Works Director Tom Pierce resigned amidst an investigation into questionable credit card purchases involving weapons and a clothing allowance. Raises of $2 an hour are going to two employees who will continue taking on extra responsibilities.
Another failed amendment was to cut into how much is given to organizations including Rockwood 2000 and The Roane Alliance. 
Evans also requested the termination of building inspector Jim Hines be put on the Monday, July 23, regular council meeting agenda. She wants the city to begin taking applications or looking to contract the services out elsewhere.