Multiple projects vie for tax dollars

The city only has so much taxpayer money available to work with, and Mayor Gabriel J. Campana and council President Bill Hall have differing opinions on where it should be spent.

Campana favors putting taxpayer money into remedies to solve flooding of Grafius Run rather than spending it on painting the grandstands at Susquehanna Bank Park at Bowman Field.

“I want to put it into that immediate public safety issue. I want to make it clear City Council did not borrow enough for capital projects and maintenance at the ballpark,” Campana said Wednesday, one day after the Bowman Field Commission urged the city to find money to pay for painting the bare wood, a result of the recent roof repair done in time for the Williamsport Crosscutters’ home opener Friday.

The estimated cost to paint the grandstand ceiling, beams and other parts of the stadium is placed at $68,000.

“There has to be priorities for the city, and Grafius Run is a public safety issue,” Campana said.

“The bare wood showing at the grandstands needs to be painted, or it is wasting the money by exposing the wood to the elements,” Hall countered.

“The roof painting can wait,” Campana said. “We have a fire house and City Hall that has a lot of repairs needed.

“We have begun an ad-hoc committee to look at Grafius Run,” he said, adding he would have a budget for that work, short term and long term, in 30 days.

Council has voted not to use borrowed bond money for the painting, which is not a capital project. The city spent $138,000 to repair the leaking roof.

Hall said money is available for projects such as the painting, but it requires looking at the budget and shifting dollars.

“There is money in the codes department that can be shifted because we increased the number of codes officers they could hire in last year’s budget and there are two open positions,” Hall said.

Campana countered Hall’s assertion, saying there is one open codes position.

“We’re almost in July and that means the salaries plus benefits have not been paid,” Hall said. “The money is sitting there and there is no other use for it. It amounts to six months of salaries and benefits.”

Hall also believes money saved from the city joining a health care consortium can be put into projects.

He also said he believes the city may receive $100,000 more than it anticipated in natural gas impact fees.

“That’s $200,000 I found just looking at transferring money available here and there,” he said.

Both men believe the short-term emergency flood mitigation issue is important and should be addressed.

Campana said last week he will use health care savings from the health care consortium for expanding summer recreation programs at the city parks.

“We’re going be coming in at least $50,000 more for health care,” he said. “It’s about $18,000 we plan to use on recreation.

“The wood ceiling at the ballpark does not need to be painted in the next 30 days,” Campana said. “I’m not signing the painting contract right now.”