The council also approved the election results on Sunday pouring of alcohol and Sunday sales of alcohol. However, stores will not be able to sell the alcohol until an ordinance allowing the sale is passed. The ordinance saw its first reading Monday night, with a second reading scheduled for the council’s next meeting.
While council member Charles Lowry indicated he wanted a called meeting to approve the ordinance sometime next week, Mayor Al Pallone and council member Ed Brush thought citizens should have enough time to speak against the ordinance if they wished.
Lowry also asked the council, during the council’s work session, to consider revising the alcohol ordinance to remove a provision requiring package stores to dismiss an employee if they owe money to the city or any of their services. Assistant City Manager Todd Heath said such provisions were originally designed to withhold licenses from business owners who had outstanding bills and it had been extended to package store employees and their licenses.
“All it does is lay out the qualifications for employees, and one of those qualifications [are] that you can’t [owe] taxes to the city, they can’t be late on the water bill [or] what have you,” he said. “If that’s one of the qualifications that you deem an employee in a package store isn’t necessary for them to have, then I suggest you make that in your vote.”
Accountant Tony Chastain then delivered a presentation on the fiscal year 2012 audit. He described the city’s financial health as “good,” in spite of a drop in general fund revenue from approximately $1 million to $986,670. The city also saw an overall deficit of $66,326, which Chastain attributed to lower sales tax revenues and other lower revenues related to economic conditions.
After the meeting, City Manager Kevin McBurnett said he was pleased with the audit.
“I am very happy with it. It reflects exactly what we thought we were going to have at the beginning of the year, or a little better than what we thought at the beginning of the year. It directly reflects where we said we’d be at the end of the year, so I feel comfortable with it,” he said.
However, during the work session prior to the regular meeting, McBurnett reminded the council there were a number of expenditures facing the city in the coming year. He cited increased law enforcement as one of the largest of those expenditures.
“All things considered, we now have got the property tax instituted, which is going to help there’s no doubt,” he said. “But we also have more expenditures coming our way. We’re seeing more and more every day. Number one being the one thing that we had a discussion about during the property tax implementation was police officers.
“As we see it right now from the city manager’s office, the No. 1 item we need to be concentrating on is police service, public safety services in this town, and how we’re going to fund it.”
Other city council business included:
• Updating the city’s water conservation plan.
• Approving a resolution requesting the city’s revised charter be put before the state legislature.
• Hearing the first reading of the 2013 municipal court dates.
• Announcing the city’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony will be held Dec. 4 at city hall.
The Emerson City Council’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. at city hall.