City Council to urge governor to protect local funds

Cassie Buchman, City Editor

The Charleston City Council voted to approve a resolution urging Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly to protect the funding of local government fund revenues at its meeting Tuesday.

The state collects an income tax from individuals, businesses and corporations. A portion of this income is given to municipalities proportional to its population.

Rauner proposed to cut the money set aside for municipalities by 50 percent, which would result in Charleston losing more than $1 million, or 10 percent of the general fund revenue.

The amount for other municipalities was 3 percent.

“Each municipality is different,” Rennels said. “In our case, we got a pretty good-size hit.”

The resolution is going to be sent to the governor and the General Assembly in the hopes of protecting funds so the city does not have to make major cuts in services.

The council also voted to accept the purchase of a right of way to build a sidewalk on Garfield Avenue that would extend from Eastern’s campus to Walmart.

Mayor Larry Rennels said when the sidewalk is built, people will be able to walk all the way from Walmart to Eastern’s campus.

“To do this, we need two pieces of right-of-way,” Rennels said.

These pieces of property needed are 36 and 42-square feet. They would each cost $300. The property owners have already been contacted and agreed to sell the property, which will be surveyed to see how much can be offered.

The sidewalk will be built in spring depending on the weather.

A resolution to approve an agreement made with Homefield Energy was passed as well.

The current contract expires in October.

The city is currently paying 4.798 cents per kilowatt-hour for electrical services.

The city manager and others have been watching the open price and waiting for it to drop below five cents.

The new price of electrical services will be 4.793 cents per kilowatt-hour.

When this new price opened up, the city manager R. Scott Smith was authorized to make a decision, and accepted the agreement for two years.

The council also approved an agreement with ABM Farms, which leases farm property to the city. The property is located by the wastewater treatment plant and is 13.3 million acres.

“The property is used to spread sludge, and we don’t want to sell it,” Rennels said.

The council voted to renew the lease, which will expire at the end of March.

It is a three-year lease from 2015 to 2018.

Rennels also brought up Eastern’s international students and a program called Family Friends.

“Volunteers will be connected with one international student,” Rennels said.

Gary Henigman, a Charleston resident, had a question about the Homeland Energy Agreement.

He asked if it was required for part of the electricity to be powered by renewable energy sources, as dictated by federal guidelines.

Smith said the electrical purchase only had to do with municipal buildings, and the federal guidelines were not applicable in this case.

Henigman also had questions about this three years ago, when electricity was being talked about for the residents of the city of Charleston.

“When entering into purchase agreements, using coal and natural gas is cheaper than hydroelectric and renewable energy,” he said.

Henigman also brought up updates on the historic preservation commission.

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].