ALMA –Locking down its 2019 budgets was the biggest order of business completed by the Alma City Council in its first meeting with Jerry Martin at the helm as mayor.

The council, meeting on Jan. 24, adopted a general fund budget with 2019 expenditures of $2,666,174.00; a water/sewer budget containing 2019 expenditures of $2,161,742.95; and a street department budget with 2019 expenditures of $1,021,226.79.

The new mayor said after the meeting he felt the session “went pretty well,” especially considering all the work put into the budget proceedings.

“It made it easy because everybody worked together on this, and when I say that I mean it wholeheartedly,” Martin said. “There were a lot of tough decisions that had to be made with the budget. Everybody came to the table and everybody worked together, and even though we had some differences we still were able to hammer that stuff out.”

The discussions included concessions by every department represented in the budget, including City Attorney Rinda Baker.

“Every department had to make cuts to be able to get the budget taken care of, including our own city attorney, who wrote off reimbursements of her cost of doing city business, which was greatly appreciated,” said Martin. “I think it speaks volumes to the character of our city council and department heads and the work that they do for the city. So I want to again say ‘Thank you very much’ for everything you have done.”

Martin said one option that kept creeping into the budget discussion was that of personnel layoffs. Thankfully, he said, the council was able to avoid going down that path.

“We were at a point where we were afraid we were going to have to start making personnel cuts, but we ended up not having to do that,” he said. “And you don’t want to do that. Your biggest expense in a business is your employees, but your biggest asset is employees. The city is no different.”

At the outset of the meeting Martin explained a new procedure for future council meetings, one in which citizens of Alma will be able to receive meeting agendas and sign up to speak during a “citizens’ forum” segment.

“For the citizens’ forum, one of the things we’re going to start doing is to provide agendas there on the podium for when you walk in, so you’ll always be able to find out what’s on the agenda for the meeting,” Martin pointed out. “And anyone who has anything they’d like to address with the city council, there will be, starting next month, some cards for you to fill out that basically ask for your name, address and the topic you want to address with the council. That way we can help keep things moving along and give citizens the opportunity to speak.”

The council also passed an ordinance allowing the transfer of ownership of firearms from the Alma Police Department to River Valley Pawn. The department is essentially trading seven firearms it no longer uses, firearms which are considered surplus city property and are not considered as evidence in any pending criminal actions, to River Valley Pawn for a Rock River Arms AR-1252 Entry Tactical SN-AA4064045 worth $950.

The final ordinance passed by the council was basically a paperwork issue dealing with the restriction of expenditures of park bond money.

“We just want to transfer it back to where it’s in accordance with state laws and matches with all the department heads,” said Martin.

Began banging the gavel down to close his first meeting, Martin told the council in his closing remarks, “I want to say ‘Thank you’ for the work you put in on the budgets. That was a lot of work. You took time out of your evenings to get together in study sessions to make that come together and I really appreciate it.”