By Bill Robinson
Seeking to take advantage of historically low interest rates, the Richmond City Commission began action Tuesday to finance the purchase of new police cars as well as refinancing an existing bank loan and selling bonds at what it hopes will be a lower rate than some existing bonds.
The commission heard first reading of ordinances that will:
• Authorize borrowing of up to just over $1.21 million from U.S. Bancorp at 1.15 percent interest for five years to purchase police cars
• Authorize borrowing nearly $2.27 million from Fifth Third Bank at 2.39 percent for seven years to refinance infrastructure improvements in the city's industrial park. Although the interest rate is virtually the same as the existing loan, it is set to expire in one year and the new loan will lock in the low rate.
• Authorize the selling in over $2.3 million in municipal bonds to replace existing bonds which had been sold when rates were higher. The bond sale may take place after the ordinance is passed second reading.
The commission also agreed to pay up to $8,750 to Alpha Environmental Contracting for the removal of asbestos from seven homes scheduled to be demolished as part of Tipton Court Community Development project.
In personnel actions, the commission:
• Hired Rachel Kathleen Bauer as a police officer at $16.41 an hour. Her employment will begin in January when she will begin 18 weeks of training with the state Department of Criminal Justice Training. If she joins the force and no other officers leave, the department will have 58 officers, two short of its budgeted strength, according to Chief Larry Brock's recommendation to hire Bauer.
• Hired David F. Mauck as storm-water enforcement officer in the Planning Department at $13.46 at hour
• Hired Elmer L. Cody as a Public Works Department laborer at $8.25 an hour
• Hired Lisa Marcum as a full-time secretary for the Section 8 Housing Department at $8 an hour
• Transferred Bonnie Eckler and Althea Causey from the finance to the human resources department
• Contracted Rose Rex to be the city's Main Street coordinator at $1,000 a month
• Accepted the resignation of Aaron Owens from the Public Works Department. He has been hired by Richmond Utilities.
During the commissioners' comment time, Commissioner Robert Blythe expressed reservations about the longevity raises recently granted to employees in the federally funded Section 8 housing program run by the city. The city had done away with longevity raises for its employees, he noted. The Section 8 program also had given its employees “substantial raises every budget year,” Blythe said, while other city employees had gone several years without raises of any kind.”
Mayor Jim Barnes said Section 8 employees' pay is set by the federal government, which provides all of the program's funding. And, if the city moved to limit the employees' pay, the federal government would reduce Section 8 funding in Richmond.
Barnes said he shared Blythe's reservations, but the city's hands were tied in the matter. Commissioner Donna Baird said she concurred with Blythe and Barnes' sentiments.