City spending plan good for safety … except for handicapped

Updated with corrected information about enterprise fund.

Headed into the June 12 meeting during which the Board of Aldermen will actually approve the city budget, as written, the spending plan is good for public safety without raising taxes, but does little to correct deficiencies that make it harder for people with disabilities to live in the city.

The plan calls for the addition of six firefighter positions at the Thurman Road fire house, which will enable the outpost station to more aggressively attack structure fires (and save lives of people trapped in burning buildings) without having to wait for backup from the city’s other stations, downtown and on Elizabeth Avenue.

The city would also hire one additional animal control officer, increasing the ranks of that service by 100 percent (in other words, it goes from one to two).

The city is already in the processing of adding parking enforcement officers downtown, where two-hour parking exists but has not been enforced.

In all, these additions make for a larger uniformed presence in the city.

The city is also planning on numerous paving projects, not the least of which are on Old Airport Road and Trent Road.

And the city would be doing this without raising taxes, instead paying for it with some of the surplus it has been enjoying during recent years.

There is one caveat. Trash pickup would be put into its own enterprise fund and the city will raise the trash fee from $11.75 to $14.75, which will cover its cost.

City trash collection has been losing money (because it could), and the city  has been supplementing the service with about $280,000 a year from its general fund. So there’s that.

Missing from the city roadmap is anything about addressing concerns for the city’s growing population of handicapped people — vision impaired and mobility impaired.

City Hall has no plans to install an elevator, something city leaders committed to do 20 years ago. Instead, wheelchair-bound citizens who want to attend city meetings on the second floor of city hall must be physically pulled up three flights of stairs — and call in advance just for that.

Also missing is anything that would address pedestrian safety for an increasingly busy downtown, where there are no pedestrian crossing signals — especially troublesome for people with vision impairment.

For a city that prides itself in attracting retirees, New Bern does surprisingly little to accommodate people with disabilities. And the current spending plan does nothing to address that.

Contact aldermen or the mayor if you have any comments or questions.

May 25th, 2018 by
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