Traugott unveils ‘economic recovery and stimulus fund’, Murner resigns
With up to $625,000 in CARES Act funding available to reimburse city expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Brian Traugott introduced a plan to the Versailles City Council Tuesday that’s designed to send at least some of that money to city residents and small businesses. Traugott told the council the city government would come nowhere near the figure, and his “Versailles Economic Recovery and Stimulus Fund” would help citizens and non-chain small businesses recoup pandemic-related losses. He said he’d spoken to an official at Community Action Partnership, which could help determine eligibility for claims, and that the organization was enthusiastic about the opportunity. Councilmember Laura Dake asked if the council could hold a work session to discuss the ordinance, and Traugott said yes. Budget A first reading was held for the city’s budget for fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1, that projects a general fund revenue decrease of 15 percent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. General fund – revenues: $10,384,015; operating expenses: $10,631,429; capital expenses: $470,690; ending balance: $5,765,746. Enterprise fund (water and sewer) – revenues: $8,827,000; operating expenses: $7,104,821; capital expenses: 608,000; ending balance: $14,290,304. Road fund – Beginning balance, $170,000; revenues (from state Municipal Aid fund): $155,742.98; operating expenses: $225,000; ending balance: $100,742.98. Murner resigns At the end of the meeting, Ed Murner, the assistant Versailles fire chief, praised his fellow firefighters for their hard work, including the training they’ve continued through the pandemic. Murner, a firefighter for 38 years and assistant VFD chief since 2017, then read a letter of resignation in which he said the current city administration’s vision and his were very different. He said he hoped his resignation would lead to the hiring of two replacement firefighters “as the mayor suggested he’d do if I leave.” Traugott said he hated the way things turned out, and that he thought highly of Murner and Chief Brian Wainscott. After the meeting, asked for comment about Murner’s claim, Traugott said, “It’s a good habit in a litigious society to not comment on personnel matters.” He said when he became mayor in 2013, there were 10 full-time firefighters, and that his fiscal ’21 budget proposal (without Murner) calls for 13. Before Murner spoke, Councilmember Fred Siegelman, who chairs the council’s Public Safety Committee, said he understood “where Chief Wainscott is coming from” regarding the loss of a full-time firefighter, but that ultimately, budget-related decisions are the mayor’s. Fiscal ’20 amendments A first reading was also held for amendments to the city’s fiscal 2020 general fund budget. Total estimated revenues are down $62,000, operating expenses are up nearly $825,000 and the projected balance as of June 30 is $6,483,850. Help for utility customers, city employees The council unanimously approved a municipal order suspending the 2 percent sewer rate increase that would have taken effect July 1. Another order unanimously passed extends the grace period for late water bills from two months to up to 12 months, depending on how much is owed. Late fees and interest will not accrue during the repayment schedule if the customer meets their monthly obligation, according to the order. Reopening The council voted 5 to 0 to approve a municipal order that will let restaurants allowed to sell alcoholic beverages on patios or outdoors to also serve them on sidewalks and parking spaces set aside for outdoor seating on a sidewalk café. Councilmember Gary Jones, a co-owner of the Versailles Brewing Company, abstained from the discussion and the vote. Traugott also said he was extending the downtown entertainment district hours. They will now be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Friday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday. Perry appointed The council unanimously confirmed Traugott’s reappointment of Patty Perry to the Property Valuation Board of Appeals for a three-year term ending April 20, 2023. New roof The council voted unanimously to accept a low bid of $47,613,63 from Big Blue Roofing of Lexington for a new roof for the Versailles Municipal Building.