Burnside's September meeting was a bit like a nice autumnal horn-of-plenty — a little of this, a little of that.
One of the biggest steps forward was in approving a new software package for the city's offices. The council unanimously approved the purchase of Ampstun software for the price of $20,475. The system will crunch the city's numbers and effectively sort out who's being taxed, who needs to pay, etc.
It's a good bit of money, but it will save the city dollars and cents in the long run, noted Burnside Mayor Robert Lawson.
"It's costing us time," said Lawson of the city's current system which is being replaced. "The other system is losing customers, it wouldn't produce reports, so we had to do (a task) three or four times. In the long run, this will save us money."
About three years ago, Burnside went with a system called GovCollect that was supposed to fulfill all their municipal needs — processing property taxes, utility payments, Alcoholic Beverage Control fees, and everything else. Flash forward three years and the system is “not doing everything it’s supposed to,” Lawson previously told the Commonwealth Journal, noting that it's "not a utility-friendly system."
The software company that the city used before that was Ampstun, and though the city changed to GovCollect when their contract with Ampstun was up the last time, they’d like to go back.
“It would do everything we need — any type of tax, any type of of license,” said Lawson. “It has the capability of doing everything we need. When we changed (to GovCollect), it did not.”
But while Burnside is spending a large sum of money to get back on the Ampstun train, it's also getting a large sum of money from the federal government into city coffers. Lawson announced that Burnside had received $64,931 in CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act to supplement salaries for the Burnside Police Department and Burnside Fire Chief, for the period of March through July.
That's the period during which COVID-19 ramifications hit the hardest — including the loss of regulatory fees and business license income, as Lawson suspended those for 180 days to give restaurants a break during a difficult period.
"They didn't have to pay those fees until later," said Lawson "Some did and some didn't."
Even as things have reached a greater degree of normalcy, restaurants have suffered, so the fees and tax revenue for the city has not been as great. Some restaurants were closed for the whole month of April, noted Lawson. As the restaurant tax goes to fund the city's tourism board and the police department is substantially funded by the city's alcohol tax, those budgets have been impacted by 2020's unusual conditions.
"Revenue coming in has been low," said Lawson. "... All of our income has been cut."
In other Burnside City Council business:
• The council approved an ordinance rezoning the old high school school property from a Residential to Commercial designation to make way for the planned Boy Scout heritage museum and Merit Badge Training Academy.
• Lawson said the city's water line project is "moving ahead," and should be off Main Street by October 1 and onto East Antioch Avenue.
• The city still plans to turn over a capsized barge believed to be potentially be involved with an oil spill in July, but is waiting on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to finish clearing driftwood off the lake before that can be done.
• The city is working with the state to put the sidewalk project back out for bid, after the one bid received last month was "significantly over" the estimated cost, said Lawson.
• Burnside officials were pleased with the "Thunder Over the Island" celebration earlier this month, and plans on having the city's fireworks spectacular around Labor Day every year in the future, though Lawson expects the actual fireworks to move to Saturday rather than Friday, as it was this year. The city also approved about $10,500 to build a permanent stage in Cole Park for future events.
"We were tickled to death," said Lawson of the turnout and reaction toward the Labor Day weekend event.
• Danny Bray of Burnside's Food Stop grocery store was appointed to the city's tourism board.