MONMOUTH — The Monmouth Budget Committee discussed budgets for the public works department, management and other funds including the Monmouth-Independence Network service debt on May 7.

Russ Cooper, public works director, said in his presentation that his department is bringing in temporary seasonal workers to help install meters.

“It’s important for us because the water meter is our cash register,” Cooper said.

Employees go out three days every month to read meters, he said.

That is a significant cost, not only in labor, but in other tasks that those employees are not able to do during those three days, Cooper said.

Monmouth City Councilor Christopher Lopez asked if the labor hours saved with the new meters will be repurposed to other tasks or if there would be a reduction in total labor cost.

Cooper said it will get redirected to other necessary tasks.

“I’ve been working with council and some citizen advisory groups on trying to develop a project priority list,” Cooper said.

Priorities could be for pedestrian, bicycles, roadway improvements or large maintenance projects, he said.

The study, which includes sidewalk repair, is expected to be completed by May 21, Cooper said.

Finance Director Janet Chenard presented information to the committee about the management, finance and court departments.

Among the 2019-20 goals are an online account sign-up process for new utility customers, review of outsourcing printing and mailing of utility bills and communications, and continued work with consultants on a feasibility study for the replacement of city hall.

Minet debt service

Chenard discussed the portion of the Minet debt service that is part of the Monmouth Power & Light fund.

“The Minet fund houses our debt service on the bonds that we have issued over time,” Chenard said. There are three outstanding bonds.

“The city is on the hook, as is Independence, for their share of those bond issues; however, Minet contributes more substantially every year to the repayment of that debt,” she said. “This year, (in 2018-19) it will be well over 65 percent and (Monmouth Power & Light) will only be putting forward … less than $400,000.”

Minet will pay interest on that $400,000, Chenard said.

“Power & Light is investing, they’re not subsidizing,” she said.

Minet owes about $3.4 million to the city.

“As (City Manager) Scott (McClure) mentioned at a previous meeting, with that road into Dallas and other elements of their plan, it’s looking like within the next two to three years, they should be paying all of the Monmouth debt. 2022 is when they start their payments on the notes we hold here at Monmouth Power & Light.”

Lopez asked what would happen “to this investment” if Minet “went away.”

“The city would be on the hook and there would be no revenue stream,” Chenard said. “We are the lender, the bond holder.”

Chenard said $13 million is what’s owed to bond holders each year.

“People bought the bonds when they were issued,” she said. “We pay them in the range of $1 million a year. We are reimbursed by Minet, up to $400,000 this year.”

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