Picayune city council approves budget with 5K for football field

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The new football field will be paid for in part by the city, and this arrangement has upset some.

The new football field will be paid for in part by the city, and this arrangement has upset some.

By Jesse Wright

Picayune Item

The city of Picayune’s fiscal year 2016 budget was approved, but not without some complaints and two “nay” votes from the city council.

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The nay votes came from Lynn Bumpers and Larry Breland, both of whom expressed concern over rising health insurance costs for employees. Both council members said they didn’t want employees to have to pay even more for insurance, although Mayor Ed Pinero pointed out later in the meeting that employees are getting a 5.5 percent pay raise this year, too.

It’s not clear what the insurance hike will mean. Pinero said he didn’t know how much the insurance would cost employees and directed questions after the meeting to city clerk Amber Hinton, who was not available for comment at press time.

But Bumpers said she believes the city will lose workers because of the insurance hike.

“A lot of workers have come up to me and said they can’t afford their insurance because their insurance is high. I think we’re going to lose a lot of workers because of the insurance. I just can’t support it,” she said. 

Pinero pointed out insurance costs are rising everywhere, not just at the city.

“I think when our wonderful employees start looking around, it’s not much better anywhere else with what other people are able to do with insurance,” Pinero said. He did say he hopes no one leaves.

The other point of contention is an agreement to pay $5,000 this year to the city school district to help pay for the new artificial football field. Councilman Wayne Gouguet said the city’s nonbinding agreement to pay $5,000 each year for five years is a bad precedent. 

“There is one item that’s buried in the budget that I objected to at the budget hearing,” Gouguet said. “My only concern is that we’re taking city of Picayune tax dollars and donating them to a philanthropic causes,” he said. “There are a lot of causes out there and I believe we may be opening the floodgates.”

However, Gouguet added that $5,000 isn’t much money out of the city’s budget, and he voted for the budget. In an earlier interview, Hinton said the money would come from the city’s general fund.

The city attorney said the agreement with the school to pay the total $25,000 cannot be passed on to a new council, so it’s not certain whether the school district will eventually get all the money. 

At the end of the meeting, when it was opened for public comments, the Very Rev. Father Jonathan Filkins said he is concerned with the field’s depreciation and the cost of replacement. 

“I have been told the lifespan of the turf is eight years, and to replace the turf, and this would be the low end, that would be $300,000,” he said. 

Filkins pointed out there should be money set aside each year to pay for repairs when the time arises. 

“This is going to be a big issue when it comes time to replace it and were going to be asked to contribute again,” he said.

In other news, Gouguet asked the city manager for an update on proposed repairs of the city’s water pipes, but Jim Luke said he’s still discussing options and doesn’t have a timetable, let alone a cost estimate.

Another resident, Christine Doby, a retired educator, spoke at the end of the meeting in praise of the city for fixing a pothole in the street near her home.

The council also approved moving forward on a community development block grant, to run water service to a single user on Clarence Frieson Road. The council passed the consent agenda and awarded the low bid on a federal aid project and also declared September to he histiocytosis month. 

The city’s next meeting will be Sept. 15 at 5p.m. at city hall.