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Council OKs budget -- with two dissenters

by James Fisher

STAFF WRITER

Despite two dissenting votes during the regular meeting and a heated discussion during a conference session, Clarksburg City Council members approved the budget for fiscal year 2000-01 Thursday night.

Council members Kathryn Folio and Margaret Bailey both voted against approving the budget, each citing concerns about the way the budgetary process was handled, as well as particular line items.

During the conference session before the meeting, Bailey said she had concerns because council as a whole had not gotten together to discuss the budget. She requested that a work session be scheduled so council could do just that. That session was scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday.

Despite saying she would vote to approve the budget as long as the work session was scheduled, Folio changed her mind during the meeting and dissented.

"I have some concerns about the way the process was handled this year," Folio said. "I am also against the cable increase, and I am concerned that some council members think the budget is set in stone."

Folio said that in the past, budget work sessions were scheduled before council voted on the budget.

During the conference session, when Bailey requested such a meeting, Councilman Sam "Zeke" Lopez questioned why Bailey waited until the eleventh hour to do so.

"Why didn't you ask for this two weeks ago when we got the budget?" he asked Bailey. "Don't wait until 3 p.m. to ask for a meeting."

Councilman Jim Hunt disputed Folio's claim that budgetary work sessions were also held in the past, and said that on numerous occasions during his 15-year tenure on council the budget was presented the way it was this year.

But Hunt also said he had concerns about the budget.

"We need to address the skyrocketing health care," he said. "This could have the same effect on the city that PEIA (Public Employees Insurance Agency) is having on the state. Just as the PEIA could break the state, health care could break the city."

Although council member Becky Lake expressed concern that if council passed the budget there would be no room for change, City Manager Tom Vidovich assured her that the budgetary process always allows for and involves change.

"It's a road map, a framework, but some things have to happen for this to be complete," he said. "It's really a plan for what we hope to do. You have major expectations of what you want to do. The budgetary process, essentially, is never done."

In other business Thursday, council asked Vidovich to continue negotiations between representatives of the Clarksburg Area Dart Association and the Greater Clarksburg 10K Race Committee to resolve any possible conflict arising from the race committee's decision to move the race date to the same weekend as the West Virginia and U.S. National dart tournament to be held in Clarksburg.

Both events are now scheduled for the weekend of July 28-30.

, which could be a big economic plus for the Harrison County area.

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