Money on the minds of Quincy leaders

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Times Reporter

Quincy City Commissioners met April 8 for their regular meeting. Topics included three considerable expenses.

Last year Quincy’s contract with Big Bend Transit cost $82,000. According to Mike Wade, interim city manager, the city contributed $36,000 toward the service. The county contributed $36,000. And Big Bend Transit anticipated collecting $10,000 through fares. 

“I don’t think we need to be in the public transportation business,” said Quincy Commissioner Andy Gay. 

According Wade, the transit company had only collected $3,500 through fares this year.

“It is a cost to the city,” said Wade. “We do have $37,000 budgeted for this, this year — but it is a cost to the city. We don’t recover our money from this.”

“I look at the number of rides and I look at the cost — and it’s prohibitive; it really is,” said Larry Edwards, city commissioner. “But then I know some of the individuals that use this service, and it’s the only mode of transportation they’ve got. So it’s a gut-wrenching decision that’s going to have to be reached, one way or the other.” 

No motion was made. No vote was taken. The commission agreed by consensus to allow the city manager to discuss a possible deal. 

The downtown master plan was also further discussed. 

Bernard Piawah, building and planning director, presented the latest step in the process: approving a city-revised contract with Atkins Inc. to prepare Quincy’s Downtown master plan.

“What are the benefits of this plan?” asked Mayor Keith Dowdell.

Piawah said the plan would provide direction the city lacks. 

“For proper growth, proper development as we go forward — it should be guided by principles, some sense of direction,” said Piawah. “As of now, we don’t have any.”

According to the building and planning director, the master plan will cost the city $25,000 — coupled with a state grant for another $25,000 — for a total of $50,000. 

“We will use that as a marketing tool,” said Piawah. “It will help us recruit businesses to the downtown.”

Dowdell argued the certification of the city’s business park would be a better investment. The certification, previously discussed by the commission, involves paying for initial sight research in order to attract a major industrial facility. 

“My question is to the commissioners,” said Dowdell. “Do you think we need to spend $50,000 for somebody to come in and tell us what we want downtown to look like?”

Commissioner Derrick Elias acknowledged a need for the master plan. He also said certifying the business would be money well spent. He remained, however, disinclined to currently take either step. 

“I’m just looking at all of the dollars that we have — and given where we are financially and trying to figure out where we are financially, I’m just reluctant to really spend any dollars,” said Elias.

Gay motioned to vote on the issue. It passed, 3-2. Dowdell and Elias voted against it. 

Severance pay for Jack McLean former city was another topic of conversation. 

Gaysaid his vote for any city employee’s dismissal would never be held hostage by the threat of paying the associated severance package. 

Elias questioned the accuracy of McLean’s time sheets from which his unused sick and leave pay is calculated. He asked Jeff Williams, interim finance director, if McLean’s time sheet for sick and leave pay had been subjected to any additional auditing procedures. Williams said he had not subjected the document to additional audits— but he would be happy to do so if the commission considered it advisable. 

Commissioner Larry Edwards motioned to approve the severance package of about $147,000. Gay seconded the motion. 

Initially, the motion failed, 2-3. Only Edwards and Gay voted in favor of it. 

Then Elias asked to change his vote. The commission voted unanimously to allow this. 

Elias then voted in favor of issuing the severance package.