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May 7, 2013

New Albany council approves money for paving, sirens

Questions again raised over bicentennial bookkeeping

NEW ALBANY — The New Albany City Council approved $2 million for paving and about $46,000 for additional tornado warning sirens on initial readings Monday.

During a lengthy meeting that featured several agenda items, the council didn’t spend much time on the resurfacing proposal, as $2 million of Economic Development Income Tax funds will be used for resurfacing this year if approved on final reading later this month.

The council has held multiple work sessions on the paving appropriation, and elected to use existing funds for resurfacing as opposed to bonding as much as $5 million.

The appropriation was approved 7-2 on the second ballot, with Council members Kevin Zurschmiede and Diane McCartin-Benedetti voting against the measure.

“I’m just not comfortable spending that much” out of EDIT, Zurschmiede said.

Benedetti said there’s no plan in place for addressing paving on a yearly basis, and the council is usually left to approve money just weeks before resurfacing season begins.

The council did spend several minutes discussing how to proceed with installing new tornado warning sirens at Bicknell Park and the Spring Street fire station.

As a partner resolution to the funding measure, the council OK’d requesting that Floyd County government foot the cost of the sirens. It was an amended version of the request, as the council strengthened the language of the proposal to the county.

The issue was first raised by city attorney Stan Robison, who said it’s the county’s responsibility to maintain the sirens.

Alluding in part to the now defunct joint parks department, Robison said the county hasn’t historically funded its responsibilities in partnerships with the city.

Before being amended, the request was for the county to maintain the sirens if installed. It stated the city would likely pay for the sirens if the county declined to.

“Before we spend the money, I suggest we get something in writing,” Robison said.

Zurschmiede agreed that the council should ask the county to pay for the sirens outright and receive an answer before appropriating the money.

“We continue to pay county taxes. Where are we going to stop funding things the county won’t?” Zurschmiede asked in reference to New Albany taxpayers who also pay county levies.

The sponsor of the ordinance — Councilman Greg Phipps — agreed to delay a final vote on the appropriation until the county responds.

He stressed, however, that the point of the expenditure is to keep residents safe. There are 16 tornado sirens in Floyd County, and officials said donations and grants organized by the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana helped foot some of the original warning systems.

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