Members of the Town of Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen joined town department heads in a budget workshop held on Monday, June 25. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Kendal Groner)

By Kendal Groner

Prior to their June 25 meeting, the members of the Town of Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen sat down for a budget session to discuss whether it would be in the town’s best interest to refinance some of its debt before they approved an amendment to their previously passed budget ordinance.

In their pursuance of possibly restructuring their debt, the town has consulted with Cumberland Securities Inc, Raymond James Financial Services and the Tennessee Municipal League.

The board was previously advised by Cumberland Securities Inc. to forgo the variable interest rates on their approximately $5.5 million in debt and instead opt for fixed rates to ultimately save money.

“If we go with a set rate, we’re going to be paying interest at that high rate. But right now, if it does go up, it will go up in small increments,” said Town of Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley. “By going with the variable rate, as opposed to the fixed rate, we have saved $272,000.”

By going with a fixed interest rate, Hensley said the town would be paying a four or five percent rate, as opposed to the high one percent or low two percent they have been, which would continue to slowly increase.

The board agreed to meet next week, on Monday, July 2, at 10 a.m. to discuss with TML what route would be most beneficial for the town.

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Budget talks then turned to long-term projects for the public works department, including resurfacing and striping. The roads included in the resurfacing and striping projects are: Washington, Adams, Monroe, Spruce, Holly Mill, Harris Hollow and Temple Hill.

“We think with the roads and striping, hopefully, it’ll be about $140,000 for those projects,” Erwin City Recorder Glenn Rosenoff said.

Hensley asked about cash on hand to fund the projects and Rosenoff said currently there was around $120,000 in the bank, with projected revenues of $192,000.

“I think basically we’re trying to do some roads with our current gas tax,” he said. “I do think we would have to space out cash on hand for the two big projects. I think we’d do just fine to do that.”

Hensley asked if that would deplete the money available and Rosenoff said he expected there to still be monies left to start 2019.

“I project we’ll probably have $30,000 at the end of the year,” Rosenoff said.

Hensley also mentioned giving the town employees an annual raise for the fiscal year 2018-19.

“This is something I’ve been adamant about is giving our employees an annual raise, because I think they deserve it,” she said. “I would like to have a three percent, if not five percent raise, whatever we can afford.”

A two percent raise for the employees would cost $62,000, a three percent raise would cost $80,000, a four percent would cost $98,000 and five percent would cost $116,000.

Overall, the town’s 2018-19 proposed budget is balanced, with both revenues and expenditures coming in at approximately $6.5 million.

“Based on what we have now, we’re balanced,” Rosenoff said.

Alderman Gary Chandler made a motion to approve the budget amendment, and it was seconded by Alderwoman Rachelle Hyder-Shurtz before it unanimously passed.

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Also during the BMA meeting, the board approved a bid in the amount of $22,248 for firefighting gear after hearing from Fire Chief Darren Bailey.

Out of the three bids that were received, two met the specifications, one being from MidSouth Emergency Equipment in the amount of $29,076, and one from MES (Municipal Emergency Services) in the amount of $22,248.

“The low bidder met the bid specifications and my recommendation is to go with them,” Bailey said. “This is the favorite of myself and the employees.”

Alderman Virgil Moore made a motion to accept the low bid from MES, and his motion was seconded by Hyder-Shurtz before it unanimously passed.

The board also heard from Bailey regarding bids on SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) gear.

Bailey said one bid did not fall within the specifications and said that a multi-jurisdictional bid could allow them to save over $1,000 per month.

“I would like to reject all bids now and ask for permission to go with the multi-jurisdictional bids,” Bailey said.

Aldermen Mark Lafever made a motion to reject the bids and allow Bailey to join the multi-jurisdictional bids in August. His motion was seconded by Hyder-Shurtz before unanimously passing.

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The board also unanimously approved a Unicoi County High School Gridiron Club 5K run/walk on Saturday, July 28, from 7 a.m. to noon.