Somerset's $65 million budget passed unanimously

Carla Slavey

Somerset Mayor Alan Keck, left, and City Attorney John Adams, right, discuss the city's budget behind the unveiled sign commemorating Cy Waddle. Signs honoring the late city councilman and businessman will be placed at each end of Jarvis Avenue.

Somerset City Council approved Monday night the budget that will oversee the 2019-2020 fiscal year - a year that Mayor Alan Keck said "has the potential to be an historic year of progress."

The $65.4 budget was approved unanimously by the ten council member present. Councilors David Godsey and Mike New were absent from the meeting.

In remarks made after the vote, Keck referred to the unanimous decision by the council.

"It means more to me than probably I can articulate in public the vote of confidence that you're trusting me to execute this budget. I recognize that you're giving me the executive authority to execute what you just approved. But I don't take those 10 votes lightly, and I think if Mike and Mr. Godsey were here, that they would do the same."

He continued: "It's not about me being right. It's about us working together to move this community forward."

He commended the council for making a "million-dollar investment in our police and first responders."

One item not contained in the budget was the utility Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) that the mayor had wanted to shore up utility departments, especially the wastewater department which has seen years of not making enough through billing to cover all of its expenses.

Even though COLAs were not a part of the budget, Keck promised it wasn't the end of the discussion.

"I will be bringing those back before the council for consideration at a later date. But this year," Keck said.

The budget does include a General Fund of $24 million, an EMS budge of $6.7 million, and a budget for SomerSplash water park for $1.6 million.

On the subject of the water park, Keck's decision not to hold the annual Fourth of July firework show was touched on by Councilor Jim Mitchell.

Mitchell said that his understanding was that paying the people working at SomerBlast in order to hold the event was about as much as the cost of the fireworks themselves.

Keck was quoted in weeks past that SomerBlast costs around $45,000 to put on, and that his reason for not hosting the show was that it was a large cost for an event that had "very little economic impact."

Addressing the decision at Monday's meeting, Keck said, "It does bring in some revenue, there is some truth to that. I think one of the … numbers that is tough to quantify is that crazy level of overtime that we have. The entire waterpark staff comes. You're asking a lot of police and EMS and fire, and so much so that they were never allowed to historically calculate the cost of that event."

Keck said he felt that the city could take the same money and hold several day-long events throughout the year.

"We will look at some events for the Fourth next year, but I want to make sure as a group that we're monitoring costs."

Also at the meeting, Council unveiled a sign to the public designating Jarvis Avenue as Cy Waddle Way.

This will not rename the street - rather, it will honor the memory of former Jarvis resident Waddle, who passed away in March

Members of Waddle's family were on hand for the unveiling and received copies of a resolution that was approved by the council.

City Attorney John Adams read out that resolution, giving many of Waddle's accomplishments, including his family, his part in the ownership of the Somerset Oil Company, being a director on the board of Citizens National Bank, chairman of the board of Citizens Bancshares and a member of the Somerset City Council.