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City gives $20,000 to new economic effort

Other special requests funded

Following a public hearing devoid of any comments from the public, the Powell City Council on Monday unanimously approved a $16.69 million budget encompassing all the city’s anticipated expenses and revenue for the new fiscal year beginning July 1.

The overall budget maintains many of the city departments’ operating costs from the previous year, but it also contains several changes, including raises for employees and a franchise fee for the city’s utilities.

For the first time, the city of Powell will charge a 4-percent franchise fee to its four utilities — electric, water, wastewater and sanitation. The new fee is expected to generate $404,463 for the city’s general fund, helping offset a roughly $275,000 deficit anticipated at the Powell Aquatic Center.

The money for the franchise fee will come from the utilities’ operating funds or reserves. No rate increases are expected for city residents to cover the franchise fee in the upcoming fiscal year, but may be considered in the future, city leaders say.

“At the present, the rates are not going to be increased in the enterprises for that specific reason,” said City Finance Director Annette Thorington earlier this month.

Powell joins Cody and municipalities around the U.S. that charge franchise fees to city-owned entities using the public easements and rights of way.

Economic development alliance, $40,000

The approved 2011-12 budget also contains $134,575 in special funding requests, including $20,000 for a new economic development alliance. Launched earlier this year, the Powell Economic Partnership “is a grassroots effort to get economic development back in Powell,” said LeAnne Kindred, who spoke to the council about the new organization. She said the goal is to “lead long-term economic growth for a vibrant and sustainable community.”

The group is seeking both private and public funding with the goal to secure $150,000 per year for three years to go toward a salary for a director and operating expenses.

The Northwest College Foundation will provide $20,000 per year for three years from its Bill and Joanne Price Economic Development Fund.

“There’s certainly a need for (economic development) services,” said Mayor Scott Mangold.

Councilmen also pledged their support for the fledgling organization, agreeing to provide $20,000 from the city’s economic development fund.

Councilmen approved the following special funding requests from the city’s general fund:

Powell Golf Club, $60,000

Reducing the golf club’s $120,000 request by half, the Powell City Council agreed to provide $60,000 toward the club’s operational expenses and capital projects, such as turf equipment and golf carts.

Councilmen debated how much money to give the golf club, saying the course is an asset to the community and a boon to local economic development. Councilman Jim Hillberry noted that the city has a major investment at the golf course already.

However, councilmen also discussed how to make golf affordable for more residents and the need to reduce the club’s operating budget and debt, and they noted the anti-golf-course sentiment in the city’s survey earlier this spring.

“The more they have to pinch, the more they have to increase their rates, so people like me can’t afford to golf,” Mangold said.

Councilman John Wetzel, who serves as a liaison on the golf board, said the golf club staff is doing a good job maintaining the facility and cutting the budget however they can.

The mayor suggested doing energy audits to help utilities run more efficiently and reduce that cost.

“The energy bill out there is way over the top,” he said.

Mangold also added he’d like to see a plan to address the club’s debt.

“I’d like to see membership increase, and I’d like to see the rates go down … to make golf affordable for more residents. But as long as they’re struggling (financially), I don’t see it happening,” Mangold said.

Powell Recreation, $20,000

The city reduced its funding of the recreation district by $10,000 from the previous year.

“They’re doing OK this year,” said John Wetzel, a recreation board member, during the council’s budget sessions last month. He added that other organizations that requested special funds are whittling pennies to get by.

Councilmen Myron Heny and Floyd Young also serve on the recreation board, and they also agreed to cut the district’s funding from the $30,000 it requested to $20,000.

The city had provided $30,000 to the district for the past six years.

The city’s funding helps support the recreation district’s various recreational and leisure services, which saw 272 days of programs last year with an average of 175 participants per day.

“The city’s financial contribution and support is extremely important to our existence and the quality of our programming,” wrote Danny Shorb, chairman of the board, in a letter to the council.

Chamber of commerce, $13,500

The city maintained its funding for the Powell Valley Chamber of Commerce, which the chamber will use toward updating its printed publications, staffing, technology updates, agricultural tours and “Treat Street.”

“As we move forward out of the economic downturn, it is our hope that PVCC makes significant progress, building our membership and providing activities that increase profits for our members,” said Dan Hadden, chamber board president, in a letter to the council. “The dollars that are awarded by the city of Powell help pave the way for economic growth not only for the Powell Valley Chamber of Commerce, but for the membership and larger community that we serve.”

Councilmen said they hope the new director will make it a priority to meet with businesses consistently.

Craig Kenyon recently was hired as the new chamber director, becoming the fourth director of the chamber in the past four years.

“I think we need to help get them stabilized,” Councilman Myron Heny said.

Powell Senior Center, $7,000

The city’s continued funding of the senior center will be used toward new kitchen/dining room equipment, assisting in hiring another food delivery person and maintaining the food programs, said Cathy Florian, program director.

Folks in Powell, Ralston, Garland and other surrounding communities receive nutritional meals at the center and through its home-delivery program.

“With today’s economy, our seniors may be faced with having to choose between paying high heating costs or for their own medical needs over nutritional health needs,” Florian wrote to the council.

“Through these hard times, we continue to service all seniors, even those who may be at a lower income level and may face financial struggles.”

The city’s funding helps the center provide services to seniors and disabled adults, Florian said.

Councilman Hillberry noted that the city’s survey indicated strong support for seniors.

Boys and Girls Club, $5,000

Maintaining its funding from last year, the council allotted money toward the Boys and Girls Club program’s cost. The Powell unit’s overall budget is $216,435, said Tina Bernard, Boys and Girls Club chief professional officer.

“Unfortunately, many people are under the impression that we are federally and/or state funded like the school systems — we are not,” Bernard said in a letter to the council. “We depend solely on donations, special events and grants that we write … we appreciate the great support we have received from the city.”

Crisis Intervention Services, $4,000

The organization’s Powell location serves as the handicap-accessible facility for the entire county and is used heavily for the shelter, last year serving 133 adults with 108 children, according to a letter by Lisa Velker, executive director for Crisis Intervention Services.

Police Chief Tim Feathers praised the organization, saying they work with the police at the time of crisis and provide ongoing service to victims.

“The care will follow for days or weeks after we’re involved,” Feathers said. “They’re a valuable asset to us.”

“This service is invaluable for people involved in domestic violence,” agreed Mangold.

Powell Caring for Animals, $3,075

The council maintained its funding of the organization, which uses the money to pay for liability insurance, food, veterinarian bills for vaccinations.

Big Brothers, Big Sisters, $1,000

The city maintained its funding for Big Brothers, Big Sisters.

“They seem to be doing pretty good. For them to only be asking for $1,000, it seems pretty reasonable to me,” Mangold said.

The organization serves any child between the ages of 5 and 17, matching them with an adult mentor who meets with the child at least once a week and serves as a role model.

Yellowstone Country Assistance Network, $1,000

The Yellowstone Country Assistance Network serves the needs of families at risk of becoming homeless or facing utility shut-offs. In 2009-2010, the nonprofit social service agency brought Park County $399,029 in grant funds that directly benefited residents and service agencies. Powell’s assistance goes toward the agency’s operating costs.

(Editor’s note: As part of the Tribune’s coverage of the 2011-2012 fiscal year budget, an upcoming story will focus on how the city survey results influenced the budget process.)

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