City brainstorms goals for city budget, identifies issues

Over the past few weeks, the city of Danville has been having budget discussions as it progresses into the new fiscal year. The city commission and city manager on April 1 identified some key issues facing the city following prior discussions, as well as progress on the goals made for previous fiscal years. Some takeaways from the meeting are outlined below.

An identified list of city issues for fiscal year 2021-2022, and larger initiatives

• A review of economic development. Since the city made the decision to go forward with the county to form an inter-local agreement for an Economic Development Authority, the inter-local agreement is currently being drafted and finalized by the city and county governments. Commissioner Denise Terry said the ability to incentivize land will be important going forward to give more reason for businesses to come to and stay in the town or county, and a focus on commercial, not just industrial, development needs more focus by economic development entities. Hopefully the future EDA and existing EDP will be able to work in tandem, she said. Further discussion with the EDP on economic development plans and the formation of an EDA is planned for the EDP meeting at the end of April.

• A city awareness campaign and more modern communication and technology. A spring newsletter is being developed and will be complete in the coming months, city manager Earl Coffey said. He and the commission discussed having both paper and email newsletters. The goal is to better communicate what the city is doing to the general public, like its new hires, the city’s app — which allows people to bring their concerns to the city utilizing resources like GPS technology to track, for example, the exact location of a pothole — utility updates and other developments. Also, city logos and the city website are being revised. Coffey also said there will be an update and discussion about broadband coming in May.

Compensation. The city has been examining compensation for city employees and how it compares to other communities. This will be a topic of revision going forward, as the police department and other departments are having difficulty retaining staff members largely due to pay. The goal is to better recruit and retain staff to maintain good staff sizes according to community need and keep experienced staff members.

The desire for monthly, online billing. Coffey and the commissioners discussed possible monthly utility billing, instead of bimonthly, and the option to pay online. Terry also brought up the issues that can arise from the current formatting of bill postage, since stickers can cover up total amounts owed, which can cause confusion. Coffey said city staff wants to convert to a monthly billing cycle during the summer of 2021.

Jennie Rogers and parks development. Though the city has not officially acquired the Jennie Rogers building, commissioners discussed how once it does, they want to open it up so people can see and explore it, and they want to find a way to utilize its kitchen, perhaps to address food insecurity, and its other facilities for parks development, like its gym. These are just ideas at this point, however, since the city doesn’t own the building yet, and it wants public input on uses for the building.

The downtown master plan and the streetscape project. Tourism, livability, walkability and traffic flow are the most central issues. Narrowing wide roads for more green space and pedestrian-friendly spaces is an element of this, as well as addressing dangerous intersections.

Beautification, litter control and managing condemned properties. Coffey said he wants to see an update to the beautification program and that the city has received a lot of complaints about litter since litter control was lacking during the COVID-19 pandemic. The county added part-time help, which helped get that under control. Coffey also discussed the possibility for a land bank authority, which could, instead of allowing condemned properties to sit idle, give the city a way to acquire and sell them.

Projects in progress

The new fire station. Construction for the new central fire station, which will be located just left of City Hall, is underway. Some of the foundation is complete, and construction on the tunnel connecting the fire station to City Hall for better communication between the police department, fire department and dispatchers will start soon, as well as further construction.

The Perryville Road water tower is under construction, as well as the water line to Perryville.

The waste water treatment plant. Bids have been received and are being evaluated.