Three Rivers City Commission discusses budget, dog control laws

Finance Director Bobbi Schoon (right) addresses the Three Rivers City Commission on Tuesday, May 14 at Three Rivers City Hall. (Deborah Haak-Frost|Watershed Voice)

Three Rivers Finance Director Bobbi Schoon gave a presentation of the city’s budget to the Three Rivers City Commission on Tuesday, at a meeting rescheduled from May 7 due to inclement weather. Schoon gave details on staffing, millages, tax revenue, and department updates, including the following highlights: 

  • Anticipated marijuana excise tax revenue of $300,000, utilized for Deputy Chief of Police position, funding to sponsor 1 candidate for police academy, partial savings to fund aerial ladder apparatus.
  • Ambulance rate increases.
  • Rate increases for sewer & water commodity rates, with a 2% increase for water rates and a 3.4% increase for sewer rates. City-wide capital improvements and purchases of $7,447,232. Salary increases of 2-5% for most non-bargaining staff and union employees (in accordance with various union contracts). Employee insurance benefits increase of approximately 3%.
  • Retirement benefits cost increase of 14.03%.

Regarding the rate increases for water and sewer, Three Rivers Mayor Tom Lowry commented, “I’ll just mention that [the water issue] always a political hot potato. I’m in the camp that it’s better to have one or two percent or three percent [increase] every year, versus punting and letting a future commission get stuck with it, and then it goes up 10 or 20 percent.”

At the end of her presentation, Schoon concluded, “The city remains in solid financial health. The proposed budget focuses on improving the city infrastructure, maintaining equipment for emergency services, and improving our parks. It also earmarks funds for the purchase of a fire truck and doing some renovations for City Hall. It also reflects some staffing modifications as we look to continue meeting the needs of our citizens.”

Commissioners agreed to set a public hearing to discuss the budget and fee schedule on Tuesday, June 4, with a plan to adopt the budget by June 18. 

Also up for discussion was the first reading of an animal control ordinance amendment which would increase the standard of control over “dangerous” dogs and dogs at-large in the city.

Currently the ordinance requires “reasonable” control over a dog, and the proposed amendment would increase that standard to “direct” control, “by the use of a leash or some other method of direct control.” Commissioners raised questions about the state law regarding control of dogs in public, and about exact definitions of terms like “reasonable” versus “direct.” A public hearing for the ordinance amendment was set for the next commission meeting on Tuesday, May 21.

In other business, commissioners…

  • Heard a presentation from representatives from accounting firm Plante Moran on a water/sewer utility rate study.
  • Approved a purchase order to work with a consulting firm to begin an avigation easement project at the Three Rivers Airport. The project will address trees that are currently impacting the “approach slope” for planes using one of the runways.
  • Received an invitation from Cameron Mains, Downtown Development Authority director, to the opening of the Downtown Dog Park on Saturday, May 18 at 3 p.m.
  • Received notice from Commissioner Torrey Brown of the passing of Sam Brown, a prominent athlete who holds multiple records in Three Rivers Community Schools athletics. 

Note: Watershed Voice staff arrived at the regular meeting time of 6 p.m., but this meeting, being rescheduled from May 7, began at 5 p.m.