City Council members met with city staff during a workshop Tuesday to discuss possible budget inclusions.
“Sometimes it’s as interesting as watching paint dry with budgets, but this year we’ve tried to make it interesting,” City Manager Randy Wright said.
Finance Director Michele Sorrell said there will need to be two public hearings to adopt a new budget, and staff is hoping to hold a final reading to adopt the new budget Sept. 2.
Wright said he recently spoke with officials from various local industries, including Voestalpine, Cheniere and Tianjin Pipe Company. Based on projections from those companies, he said there could be 7,000 construction workers in the area by the end of 2015.
The revenue these workers bring to Portland – and the sales tax revenue generated by service agencies that will support them – give Portland an opportunity to cease being ultra-conservative during the budget process, as has been the case in the past, Wright said.
“When our budgeting numbers are conservative, we don’t take into account these numbers,” he added.
Wright proposed adding five city workers with funding that would come from the city’s general fund. Three of those workers would be firefighters, which would enable the fire department to utilize five workers per shift. It currently has four workers for each of its three shifts.
The addition of firefighters could cut down on the department’s tendency to call additional emergency units out on calls. Fire Chief Timothy Vanlandingham said the department makes second calls 60 to 70 percent of the time.
“The bottom line is it’s a safety issue,” Wright said. “I believe we need to add three firefighters to make sure it’s safe.”
Wright also proposed the addition of one dispatcher at the police department.
“They handle all 911 calls and dispatch, and one additional dispatcher would help them cover shifts,” Wright said.
Police Division Coordinator Becky Stewart said the department received more than 16,000 911 calls last year. There are times when the dispatcher is the only person in the station, she added.
“No one should ever be by themselves in that building, since it’s a police station,” Mayor Pro Tem Cathy Skurow said.
Staff also discussed the city’s five-year capital improvement program. The addition of a hike and bike trail at Violet Andrews Park is included in the plan’s initiatives.
“We want to look at areas of town where we can expand hike and bike activities and make Portland more livable, and give people things to do,” Wright said.
Staff plans to commit $25,000 to the project this year and $75,000 to it next year.
Rehabilitation of the city’s Community Center is included in the capital improvement program.
“That building is heavily used, so it’s important we do heavy reconstruction on the inside,” Wright said.
“We may want to do something with the racquetball court that’s not being used, and the bathrooms need rehabbed badly. That’s a big investment, but the building is a big investment.”