With just one item on the agenda, Monday evening’s Emerson City Council meeting more or less resembled an impromptu state of the municipality address.
While the City’s fiscal year 2020 budget may require some minor amendments, Emerson City Manager Kevin McBurnett said the final numbers for FY ’21 remain uncertain. As Emerson Mayor Al Pallone put it, the proverbial crystal ball isn’t just cloudy — “it fell off the table and broke.”
“It’s not going to be anything like what we wanted to see, but we’ll just have to amend as we move along,” McBurnett told the council. “I’ve been through enough of the webinars right now, the forecasting and looking at it, no one really knows.”
Pallone said that’s not a unique situation — indeed, he said it’s a fiscal fate frustrating local governments across the country.
At this point, McBurnett said he does anticipate a draft of the FY ’21 budget coming before the council by next month.
“If we have to amend every month, I’ll just come back before you and show you what we have and we’ll take it from there,” he said. “I think we’re all smart enough to make it work.”
McBurnett also said he expects the City to begin issuing water service disconnection notices — if not this week, then the next.
“We are now in the process of contacting those individuals that claim water from the City who are past due,” he said. “With the unemployment being able to get out and the stimulus that they’ve put out there, it’s time to start working with our customers and figuring out how to get them back on track with their water bills.”
Amidst the fallout of the coronavirus outbreak, he said the City has been able to recently hire a new officer.
“The police is trying to get back up where they need to be,” McBurnett said. “Not really where they need to be — they need to be double the size they are.”
McBurnett also praised Emerson’s public works department, stating “they’re able to work through this and take care of everything that needs to be done.”
City officials, he said, continue to communicate through videoconferencing software and other means on virtually a daily basis.
“There’s a lot still going on that you don’t see,” he told the council. “The employees are working hard, day in and day out … actually, they’re probably working harder now than they do on a normal business day, because they wake up and their office is right there.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, McBurnett said development in Emerson has continued. The River Point industrial park project, he said, is “moving along really well” and he noted that the City is “very close” to issuing permits on the long-awaited QuikTrip gas station along Highway 293.
A planned recreational vehicle park off Joe Frank Harris Parkway, he said, is also showing signs of progress.
“We issued a land disturbance permit for them, so they’re starting to move,” McBurnett said.
He said the City has approved some site plans for a new hotel on LakePoint Sports’ southern campus. The project, McBurnett said, is currently awaiting fire marshal approval.
“We’ll be issuing a permit for the [land disturbance] on it and we’ll move through with the building plans on it,” he said.
McBurnett also gave an update on the LakePoint Parkway northern extension.
“I don’t want to give you a date yet, but right now we’re working with the attorneys in the County on the paperwork,” he said. “That was done through the County as a County project and we’re working on getting transferred the ownership over to us.”
More details on a planned roundabout along Red Top Mountain Road, which would serve as an entry point for the proposed Vineyard Park mixed-use development, will likely come before members at the council’s next public meeting.
“They’re moving on that slowly, but they’re moving on it,” McBurnett said.
He also said he was encouraged by several residential developments within the city.
“At a time like this, whenever you’re hearing all the doom and gloom on the radio and what you see on the news, to hear that much construction going on, and that much development, just in this little town right here, that’s huge to me,” McBurnett said.
As for the council’s official actions, members voted unanimously Monday night to approve a resolution extending the City’s moratorium on signage for another 90 days.
“Due to the pandemic and the closing of the City there for a little bit, we have not had ample time to be able to work with our attorney to be able to get a new ordinance in place,” McBurnett said. “That would put it out through August and give us more than ample time to be able to get this done and bring it back to you.”