City of Bamberg sees reserve fund coffers dwindle

Having to take $50,000 a year for the last three years out of its reserve fund just to “keep our heads above water” has resulted in a decrease of approximately $200,000 in the City of Bamberg reserves over the last two years according to City officials.

“If we keep doing that, we have about another three years on reserve and we’ll be operating on a kind of month-to-month basis as to revenue that we get in to pay bills with,” City of Bamberg Clerk/Treasurer Bruce Watson told City Council members at their March 14, monthly meeting.

Watson added that City officials will have to make some “real tough” decisions this coming budget year and he could not see were revenues will “pickup” unless the City starts saving money by finding a way to “do things cheaper.” “This year we will really have to sharpen the pencils. You can see the picture, that’s what I try to paint to you all the time, It’s getting tougher everywhere,” Watson said.

“We’ve been warned,” Mayor Alton McCollum said following Watson’s comments. “Now, it’s up to each commissioner to see if there is any way we can tighten up. We are eating up our reserves- $200,000 the last two years.”

Also during the meeting:

Police Commissioner Bo Griffin said one area that is being looked at to save money is the cost of prisoner care, were the City of Bamberg continues to pay the County of Bamberg $16 per day to house its prisoners even after their cases have moved on. “That’s one area we’re looking at when it comes to the budget,” Griffin said.

Bamberg Police Chief George Morris said over the last 40 years unlike most other cities and counties, the City of Bamberg and Bamberg County have never worked out an agreement on housing prisoners. “We’ve done gone over our budget, so we’re going in the hole,” Chief Morris said. Adding, “so we’ve met our budget the rest of the year, we’ll be over budget for jail cost.”

In her report on licensing, Councilmember Cynthia Summers suggested the City could save money on postage by printing licenses immediately and giving them to business owners.

Councilmember Janeth Walker, Sanitation and Chamber of Commerce Commissioner, reported on the replacement of dumpsters, repair of leaks and termites at the civic center.

Further in the meeting; Fire Chief Timmie Taylor reported in February-March the department responded to 3 structure fires, 1 alarm, 5 grass, 1 vehicle, 1 assist rescue. (March) 1 meeting, 1 structure, 2 alarms and 2 rescue assist.

Parks Commissioner Nancy Foster, in an update on the basketball courts at the Ness Sports Complex said a contractor was coming in “tomorrow.” Foster noted that a contractor had been in place for a new basketball court and now a contractor had to be obtained for the existing court. Foster noted at grant for $15,000 had been applied for through LSCOG and the fence at Foster Park is being painted.

In other business:

• Council members agreed that a letter should be sent to Jennifer Tinsley at LSCOG concerning a number of issues that needed to be discussed including; placing a stop light at the corner of Highway 78 and Calhoun Street and the replacement of a stop light at the intersection of South Main Highway and Elm Street.

• Council members agreed to give Advance Disposal Sanitation Company a 60-day notice of the City’s intention to solicit competitive proposals for sanitation services.

• Council members approved the appointment of Odell Sherman to the Board of Zoning Appeals and the reappointment of Jerry Halmon to another four year term on the Board of Zoning Appeals.

• Council members thanked outgoing Council member Teresa Hannibal for her service on city council.

• Mayor Pro-Tem Nancy Foster proposed a resolution honoring Bamberg native Nikki Haley on being elected the state’s first minority governor.