By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
City Administrator Jason Myers announced at the beginning of the annual William Mahan Harman Memorial Fund meeting that the 5% payout of the fund is $992,390. Each of the four entities to receive funds; Parsons City Cemetery, Parsons Parks and Recreation Commission, Five River’s Public Library, and the Benefit of the Citizens of Parsons Commission, submit a contribution application listing their total funds needed to operate, other funds appropriated (general fund), those left from the Harman Fund from the last withdrawal, and the total requested at present time.
Myers spoke on behalf of the cemetery, directing the Council’s attention to their statement of revenues and expenditures. The beginning balance of the general fund as of March 1, 2020, was $73,038.68. After revenues and expenditures were calculated, the balance as of February 28, 2021, came to $77,789.08. In the cemetery Harman Fund account, the beginning balance as of March 1, 2020, was $22,614.74, plus $35,313.02 in revenues, then minus $45,465.45 in expenditures. This brought the ending balance as of February 28, 2021, to $12,471.31. The projected operating budget for March 2021 through June 30, 2022, is $174,375.39 This resulted in a total fund request of $71,000.
Councilman Tim Auvil presented the request on behalf of the PRC, which contributes to River City Park, Mill Race Park, and the Wellness 24 Fitness Center. The total funds needed for the project period is $410,493.93 with $61,719.78 available in the parks and recreation fund and $40,774.15 remaining in the wellness 24 fitness center fund. With a total remaining of $102,493.93, this brought the total requested to $308,000. “Within the 308, I do want to make sure that everybody is still aware that $25,000 of this is administrative fees,” said Auvil.
Auvil highlighted where the funds would be utilized, including but not limited to lease payments, replacing broken fitness equipment, completing the new entrance at MRP, and replacing the pirate ship playground equipment at MRP. The beginning balance for the parks fund as of March 1, 2020, was $12,112.50, plus revenues of $6,492.64 and expenditures amounting to $2,555.07. This brought the ending balance for this fund as of February 28, 2021, to $16,050.07. The park’s Harman fund account had a beginning balance of $8,146.27 on March 1, 2020. The total revenues received were $278,465.32 with expenditures amounting to $253,151.88 leaving an ending balance as of February 28, 2021, of $33,459.71.
Looking at the general fund for Wellness 24, the beginning balance on March 1, 2020, was $5,197.56, revenues came to $26,257.67, with $22,366.06 in expenditures. This produced an ending balance of $9,089.17 as of February 28, 2021. The Harman fund account for Wellness 24 began on March 1, 2020, at $991.41. Revenues came in at $45,111.18 and expenditures at $41,722.61. The balance as of February 28, 2021, was $4,379.98.
“And 308 is taking her down to the bare minimum if we want to get these other projects done,” claimed Auvil. He also pointed out the additional expenditures at Wellness 24 with the extra sanitation and time attributed to doing so, re-opening at a lower membership, and a lack of revenue during the closure.
Dennis Filler, Board President of Five River’s Public Library, had the task of presenting their request for consideration. The total funds requested of the library was $135,500. Making of their needs are the benefits and insurances of the staff, materials, advocate digital project, programing, Atlantic Broadband, and Mobile Hotspots Lending Project. A balance sheet as of February 28, 2021, was included with a total liabilities and equity amount of $130,013.92. A budget projection for July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022, listed a total revenue, considering the $135,500 was awarded, of $248,900 with total expenditures also for $248,900.
“The bulk of the request there is for salaries,” Filler stated as he gave a brief explanation of the projects the library is working towards. He pointed out that even during the pandemic, the library remained operational and worked diligently to accommodate the students’ needs during this trying time. Councilwoman Melissa Jones asked if the mobile hotspots listed on the project list would be for a fee to patrons. Filler stated it would be a free service.
The final request presentation was from the Benefit of the Citizens of Parsons Committee, presented by Recorder Bruce Kolsun. He went through each project line item that made up the total for their request. Some of the larger items on that request included $25,000 for the raw water station, $50,000 for the Parsons Emergency Water Preparedness and Resiliency, $25,000 grant match for the Wastewater System Improvements, $75,000 towards street paving, $65,000 for the Parsons City Police Department salaries, benefits, and equipment, $25,000 to the demolition fund, the city utilities stabilization fund, and the Pulp Mill Bottom pond restoration, $30,000 for the Corrick’s Ford Battlefield Development Match, $30,000 to the Parsons Revitalization Organization (PRO) for the McDonald Building Renovations, and $75,000 for the Rainy Day Fund for a total of $630,800.
“I saw that there was a thing in here for PRO,” began Jones. “Last year I requested financials for PRO, and I think we all heard it, and I don’t see financials in here.” She continued that she thinks a lot of the projects that were done should have been done differently or in a different order. Myers stated that a bank statement was sent out, however, Jones didn’t feel that told the Council enough information, and everyone else has to provide theirs. “PRO has $3,000, that’s what they’ve got,” Myers informed. “I understand that, but they need to show where their income assets are going in and out,” Jones said.
“I just don’t understand why last year, Missy (Jones) asked for a financial, and here we are, a year later,” said Wagner. She expressed a desire to see receipts and to be shown where the thousands of dollars that the City has contributed to PRO has been spent. Discussion continued about a clause being included for the building to return to the City if PRO would ever dissolve. “We talk about PRO as though they’re separate, they’re on our team, they’re us,” said Myers. Wagner and Jones agreed that they acknowledge that, they just want to see financial statements on how the funds were being spent by PRO just as it is required of the library, parks, and cemetery.
Mayor Dorothy Judy went alphabetically through each council member asking for their budget suggestion for each of the line items. Auvil went first, allocating $60,000 to the cemetery, $305,000 for the parks, $60,000 for the library, and $567,390 for the BCP. The biggest changes made in Auvil’s budget were less than $11,000 to the cemetery, $75,500 less to the library, $19,000 less for the raw water station, and $25,000 for street paving. When referring to the parks, Auvil stated, “These numbers are tight.”
Councilman David Greenlief followed, allocating $70,000 to the cemetery, $308,000 for the parks, $50,000 to the library ($85,500 less), and $564,390 for the BCP. The major changes made within that budget were $18,000 less for the raw water station, $25,000 less for the street paving, and $11,410 less for the rainy day fund.
The next proposal was from Jones, who began by stating if she knew the raw water project could be done cheaper, she would have decreased that line item as Auvil and Greenlief had done. Her budget included $56,000 for the cemetery ($15,000 less than requested), $260,000 for the parks (less $48,000), $80,000 to the library, (a decrease of $55,500), and $596,390 to the BCP. Within the BCP, the major differences included $50,590 towards street paving (less $24,410), an additional $5,000 for the demolition fund, and $20,000 to PRO (less $10,000).
Kolsun presented his next, recommending the full $71,000 to the cemetery, $303,000 to the parks (less $5,000), $55,000 for the library (less $80,500), and BCP an allocation of $563,390. The main changes Kolsun made within the BCP were $5,000 less for the HACH annual maintenance contract, $25,000 less for street paving, $5,000 less for the city utility stabilization, and $14,410 less for the rainy day fund.
Councilman Michael Matlick gave his first Harman Fund proposal as a newly elected council member for the City of Parsons. He suggested $10,000 less to the cemetery at $61,000, $300,000 for the parks ($8,000 less), $65,000 for the library ($70,500 less than requested), and $566,390 for the BCP. Matlick’s major changes for the BCP included $10,000 for the raw water station, $5,000 for the HACH annual maintenance contract, street paving down to $55,000, and $60,590 for the rainy day fund.
Councilman Kenneth Moririson allocated $60,000 to the cemetery (less $11,000), $300,000 for the parks ($8,000 less), $80,000 for the library (less $55,500), and $542,390 for the BCP. Morrison reduced street paving to $50,000, the demolition fund to $10,000, and PRO reduced to $20,000.
The final council member to submit their proposal was Councilwoman Amy Wagner. She began with the cemetery of $55,000, $170,000 to the parks, $151,890 for the library (an increase of $16,390), and $615,500 for the BCP. She suggested increasing the sidewalks budget to $45,000, decreasing the Parsons City Police Department to $20,000, increasing the demolition fund to $35,000, reducing the city utilization stabilization fund to $15,000, adding $50,000 to the pond project, and suggested removing funds for the river access, PRO, and pocket park at this time.
Myers input each line item proposal from all of the council members which computed an average of all of the suggestions. Each one was rounded to a whole number when Auvil referred to parks saying, “At that number right there, we just simply close it down, we don’t mow the field, we don’t buy the equipment to do it.” “That has to be no less than $300,000,” added Kolsun.
When it came to the library, Filler came back to address the council stating, “I’ll go on record, I’ve heard many times where you guys are spending money and paying things back. If you want to penalize the library because it runs fiscally prudent, and sound to county principals, that’s fine and dandy, but in the long run, you’ll learn to pay it.” Judy stated that the will (from William Harman) says allocation amounts are to be distributed after consideration of all funds, and the library has money left.
Discussion continued briefly before Filler said, “Again, I’ll go on record and make it very clear, folks I’ve heard a lot of things about taking and paying back money that has already been spent and moving money around. The library doesn’t do that. I’m saying ma’am you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul.” Jones explained that one of the reimbursements as a result of projects done that were supposed to be covered by the CARES Act did not get paid for, therefore the funds had to be reimbursed. “It’s not prudent financial practice,” responded Filler.
Auvil spoke up saying that over 13 years he has sat on the Council, the library was not able to sustain operations as a result of the Harman Fund allocation. “The whole purpose is, how much money do you need, need being the operative word here in order to get what you need done and retain your six months reserves,” said Auvil. Filler said he knows the library needs a minimum of $90,000 to meet their needs and maintain reserves. The Council assured that if an emergency arose, they would do their due best to assist.
After the rounding took place on each line item, everyone was impressed that the total proposed was off by less than $2,500. Myers suggested removing $2,000 from the rainy day fund and the remaining $410 from the sidewalks. This balanced the budget and Kolsun made a motion to accept the budget with Morrison offering a second. Judy took votes by roll call with Matlick, Morrison, Auvil, Kolsun, Jones, and Greenlief in favor with Wagner voting against. The motion carried with a six to one vote.
The official allocations from the Harman Fund included the following: $62,000 for the Parsons Cemetery, $300,000 for the Parsons Parks and Recreation Commission, $77,500 to the Five Rivers Public Library Board, and $552,890 for the Benefit of the Citizens of Parsons.