Spend Wisely, West Memphis

Our View

Spend Wisely, West Memphis

The wish list of wants, needs and expectations seems to be growing longer and longer in West Memphis where utility workers claim they are underpaid in comparison to what utility employees in other cities get. Then there are the city firefighters who claim they too are underpaid in comparison to what other similar cities pay.

Besides wanting pay increases, fire officials are telling city politicians they need a new fire truck, want a new ambulance as well as new Chevrolet Tahoes for their chief and other ranking firemen.

We’re now told that a municipal bond issue might have to be underwritten to address costly repairs for at least three West Memphis buildings not including major repairs to two antiquated fire stations.

Councilman Randy Catt said upon hearing the situation said “We have a lot of building issues coming forward in 2019.”

No exact dollar figures were put out by City Treasurer Frank Martin other than saying the money will probably come from the bond issue which will have to be paid back with interest.

Bear in mind, these major needs come in addition to now promised bonuses to all city employees in the amount of $500 for employees with less than a year on the job and $1,000 for all other city employees.

This is in addition to anticipated raises for city utility employees as well as raises for firefighters amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Admittedly, for many years city officials have ignored the needs of city buildings such as the 1938 brick twostory courthouse building that is one of 17 locations in Crittenden County on the national Register of Historic Places.

And, let’s look at the city’s fire stations, all of which could stand major renovation or, better yet, replacement.

The city’s police station, originally the Bank of West Memphis, also needs repairs, according to police officials.

The call for higher salaries, bonuses being approved and addressing the city’’s building needs will weigh heavily on city politicians and particularly the city’s new mayor.

Also at issue in the upcoming year will be addressing the growing problems within the city’s poorly functioning sanitation department. Besides poor management and employee issues we’re told that the department is in serious financial stress.

Excessive overtime, equipment abuse and a lack of leadership has forced the department to rely upon money borrowed from the city’s “cash cow” the West Memphis Utility Department just to pay salaries. Equipment upgrades will certainly be on the list of needs in the coming months and where that money will come from has not yet been revealed.

As most of us are aware Southland Gaming and Racing is the city’s biggest financial contributor and with the announced $200 million expansion as a result of the recently voter approved casino amendment city politicians are no doubt anticipating even bigger tax dividends.

These are major issues West Memphis taxpayers need to pay close attention to as this new mayor and city council figure out how address them while continuing to provide the necessary services in an acceptable fashion. City taxpayers should not be burdened with paying for these raises and neglect with higher taxes and increased fees as we expect city politicians just might suggest.