Mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration secured final approval of five borrowing measures amounting to $10 million for sewer repairs, police body cameras, public works equipment, and other expenses.
Members of the City Council approved the measures last Tuesday. Below is a full breakdown of the five borrowing measures:
- $4 million for sewer repairs
- $1.73 million for fire equipment, library repairs, hardware and software for online permitting module for code enforcement, online planning and zoning module, and police body cameras.
- $1.68 million for public works equipment – pick-up trucks, rear loaders, a patch truck, a brush chipper, and snow trucks — and roof repairs at the public works headquarters.
- $1.18 million for installation of artificial turf field for soccer and football at Brandes Park; improvements to Bauerle Field House; and other parks and fields improvements.
- $1.44 million to resurface roads.
Council members initially wanted to reject the $4 million sewer repair borrowing measure by citing the Sayegh administration’s botched billing reforms that led to 100 to 1,000-percent fee increases for ratepayers.
Some criticized Sayegh and his chief of staff Kathleen Long, who served as the point person on the mayor’s sewer reforms.
The measure required a super majority or six votes for approval.
“Our sewer division is in complete disarray,” said Shahin Khalique, 2nd Ward councilman. He said until the Sayegh administration fixes the botched billing he could not support the borrowing measure for sewer repairs. “The presentation you provided to us and the billing doesn’t match.”
Long pitched the sewer reforms to council members using PowerPoint presentations. Some council members accused the administration of misleading the council through the slides.
“The one thing we don’t want is to have a sewer collapse and not have the funds to repair it,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman.
“There’s two different issues here,” said Luis Velez, 5th Ward councilman. He said the billing problem and the emergency sewer repair borrowing measure are two separate issues.
The sewer measure initially failed in a 5-3 vote. Khalique, Michael Jackson, and Lilisa Mimms voted against the measure. Flavio Rivera was absent.
Finance director Marge Cherone said the city has reduced its budget for emergency sewer repairs over a three-year period. She said the borrowing measure was $8 million three years ago. It was $6 million last year. And $4 million this year.
“If it does not pass, we have to go back to square one,” said Cherone. This means a three-month delay, she said. Failure to repair sewer would result in $10,000 per day fines levied against the city by the federal government, she said.
“I normally stick to my guns. I just don’t want the city to incur any extra costs,” said Mimms. She changed her vote from a no to a yes, allowing the measure to pass.
The measure passed in a 6-2 vote. Mimms, Al Abdelaziz, Ruby Cotton, McKoy, Velez, and Maritza Davila voted in favor while Jackson and Khalique voted against.
Council members also approved the other four measures. Three measures were approved without opposition. Jackson was the sole vote against the borrowing measure for $1.44 million in road resurfacing.