Infrastructure Challenges Clash In City Budget

The Manhattan city commission wrestled with two high impact items during Tuesday night’s work session…. The budget, and city streets.

The commission will publish a flat mill levy tax, and city staff are now working towards coming up with a list of menu items to reduce spending to bring taxes in line with that mandate.  The deadline for the discussion is August 6th at the public hearing on the budget.  Several items were suggested by commissioner Wynn Butler for possible reduction, and included not hiring a training director for the fire department.

Mayor John Matta agreed with Commissioner Wynn Butler’s assessment on dropping a trainer for the fire department off the budget.

Fire Chief Scott French disagreed, and pointed out the need for efficient training that will meet the needs of the city as it grows.  French pointed out the structures within the city were changing, and buildings are going as high as seven stories.  These factors, and the need for developing standard protocols, are considered by the chief to be crucial for the safety of the community.

Other changes suggested during the session included possible reduction of the Manhattan Convention and Visitor’s Bureau’s funding and commissioner Wynn Butler reiterated his desire to remove funding from the UFM project.

Manhattan city streets have come under fire recently, and city staff laid out the issue in black and white… the city has a problem looming with public road maintenance.

According to city officials the funds for maintaining  city streets have been declining while the costs of materials have been rising steadily over the past few years.  Experts say another issue adding to the problem is the decline in quality seen in standard aggregates used in the process of maintaining the existing roadways.

Manhattan resident Gary Olds spoke out at the session and said he wants his city government to take care of the basics before anything else when dealing with the budget.  Those items included fire and police services, and safe roads.  Olds said he wants these basic infrastructure projects taken care  before social services receives funding within the city’s budget.

The commission tasked staff to bring options for dealing with the issue to the next session.