The Centralia City Council met an hour before their regularly scheduled council meeting to hold a 2023-2024 budget workshop on Tuesday night. While budget talks dominated most of the council’s attention for the night, there were some other issues brought up during the meeting.
Nearly half of the city council meeting consisted of public comments once again concerning both the uncertain future of the Pearl Street Pool and more employees from CORE Health voicing their concerns over the new marijuana dispensary being built near their rehab center.
The Centralia Public Works department also announced it is continuing the fall leaf collection service. LeMay picks up the bins. Citizens can call the Public Works Department at 360-330-7512 to get one while supplies last.
The compost bins are for leaves only. This program helps prevent storm drains from clogging up with leaves and debris. Leaf bin distribution will begin on Oct. 10 with the first leaf pickup happening Oct. 13 and continuing every Thursday for the next two months.
While the 2023-2024 budget for the city of Centralia is still preliminary, the total budget currently being proposed is $141,134,742. During the workshop, a number of capital projects that need funding were discussed and requests were heard for several outside organizations looking for funding as well.
Centralia City Lights is currently getting $62,527,735.00, and City Light General Manager M.L. Norton explained what the capital expenses were to the council. The expenses totaled $7,438,000.
“That’s more than last biennial but we also sliced the budget last biennial because of the COVID effects. 2019 to 2020 was a very similar number. In fact it’s lower than what was scheduled for 2019 and 2020,” Norton said.
Among the projects included are a 50-year-old galvanized steel pipe in the Centralia City Light building that is leaking and needs to be replaced; replacing aging air conditioners units on control buildings to prevent the relays from overheating; and replacing a flawed distribution switch in a substation.
“They have a flaw in the metallurgy that they built them with. The metallurgy, there’s something that results when you put dissimilar metals together, one corrodes the other and it’s now dripping on the insulator below which could lead to a short that would be catastrophically bad,” Norton said.
Centralia City Light is also in the last year of a five-year meter replacement program and will have a completely modernized metering system by 2023. A new digger derrick line truck that was initially ordered in 2019 and delayed due to supply issues is expected to finally arrive next year.
Public Works Director Kim Ashmore laid out the main expenditures that the Public Works Department hoped to get into the budget. The majority of items are replacements for aging equipment, including an asphalt roller and a welder.
“Both of those two are replaced with funds that are accumulated over years so it’s not a hit on the budget,” Ashmore said.
He also stated the need for a toolset for the city’s mechanics to use as currently they use their own tools on jobs, as well as a scanner tool for the trucks Public Works uses to help diagnose vehicle maintenance issues.
Finally, Ashmore asked for a new Graco Thermoplastic machine to make more crosswalks and railroad crossings.
“It’s that thick rubber that’s glued down. It’s hot when it comes out of the machine and that will stay nice and thick and bright for seven to 10 years,” Ashmore said.
He hopes to save both money and labor by eliminating the need to repaint traditional concrete crosswalks and railroad crossings every year.
“That’s something we paint every year. We have three paint machines. It’s six people, and as soon as we get a break in April with weather, they’re out painting. It’s very labor intensive and I think this will cut down a lot of labor in the longterm,” Ashmore said.
Ashmore went on to break down some of the budget proposals from the Wastewater Department, which included a redesigned force main, a sewer extension project in Ford’s Prairie and pump station upgrades.
Other items included in this preliminary biennial budget were two new patrol cars for the police department, a train simulator and a sandbag-filling machine for community-wide flood events.
A number of private organizations made budget funding requests too, including the Economic Alliance of Lewis County, the Centralia Downtown Association and the Lewis County Seniors organization.
Budget talks are set to continue as city workers prepare to propose the draft budget for two public budget hearings set for November with the goal being to adopt the budget by the end of November.