Cutbacks necessary for city's future
All of the good citizens of Hartselle seem to have had their say on the wet/dry issue. I heard the cheering all the way from Decatur. So, for now the Hartselle liquor store on the foot of Hartselle mountain is safe. Business from Hartselle as usual. It would be interesting to find out just how many hypocritical bigots we have in Hartselle. How many Hartselle residents buy their alcohol in Decatur and Huntsville and bring it home? Hartselle just might be the wettest dry city in Alabama. We have said goodbye to any hopes of ever having any really great restaurants in Hartselle.
Now comes the time to stand up and be counted on the property tax issue. I trust the 3,419 'no' votes on alcohol will turn into 'yes' votes on a property tax increase. Of course, the 2,035 'yes' votes will vote no on a property tax increase. Since 2,395 registered voters did not vote there is a strong indication that a property tax increase would not pass. I know that good number of the 'no' voters will vote 'no' on a property tax increase. A tax increase will be a hard hit on all the low-income families and senior citizens living on a fixed income.
Since our city coffers are hurting for funding, there are a number of measures that can be taken.
The city could modify some of its services as follows:
Eliminate the service for picking up yard waste, tree branches and whatever else residents throw out in the street. I have never seen such an inefficient method of picking up such debris. This could possibly reduce the city work force's overtime. No wonder that it takes five weeks for them to make the rounds. A definite day is needed for such pickup so that trash does not lie out in the street for four-plus weeks.
For those residents wishing to continue yard waste curbside pick-up, have the debris placed in special bags that would have to be purchased at city hall for $1-$2 per bag with a special rate for senior citizens and the handicapped. This would encourage private contractors to provide the service or residents haul their own waste to Hartselle's landfill. This would keep trash off the streets. For those residents who would put debris out in the streets, issue citations. First, issue a warning. Second, issue a citation of $50 or $100. That would get their attention, and double the fines for illegal dumping. There are times that our neighborhoods look like Trashville, USA.
Have definite spring and fall cleanup weeks for assigned areas of the city. The city would provide the service to haul away yard debris, old appliances, tree branches and whatever.
Street repairs and street upgrades: Assess each adjacent property owner on each side of the street based on the length of frontage on said street at 25 percent of the cost of repairs or upgrades. This would cover 50 percent of the city with the city covering the remaining 50 percent. This is done in many cities around the county.
Reduce the Hartselle City work force through early retirements and not filling any vacancies. Convert most street repairs and improvements to private contractors. Currently, the street department, from what I have seen in street repairs, does a very poor job. It is a fact that a private contractor would do better work at a lower cost to the city of Hartselle.
Sports in Hartselle are an important item in the city budget. It is a good thing for young people to have areas to play sports. The question is: how much is Hartselle willing to spend on sports areas and their upkeep? There is no reason why parents and the participants can not volunteer some of their time to help maintain the sports areas. Other areas in which we have lived the sports fields are mostly maintained by the parents and the participants. Why can we not do it in Hartselle?
The issue on recycling: recycling is important. Many states have mandated recycling laws on the books. If you do not recycle, you are fined. Alabama needs to have stiffer recycling laws on the books. Perhaps Hartselle should set the pace for the state. We currently dump a lot of recyclable materials in our local landfill. Just take a visit out and take a look at yourself. Most of the wood could be set aside for people who would like free firewood. Most of it is now dumped for fill. Why is yard waste (grass) dumped in the landfill? It may cost more initially to recycle but in the end it may actually cost less since a landfill must be monitored for years after it is closed. Every responsible citizen should be recycling to the full extent that is possible. I notice that many of my neighbors do not recycle. I believe they are just plain lazy.
Littering is another problem. It seems to me that many parents do not teach their children not to litter. Just look around, litter is everywhere. We spend thousands of tax dollars and hundreds of volunteers hours just to pick up the litter from our city streets and countryside. What a waste. And all that is necessary is for parents to educate their children to be good stewards of the environment. Are most parents just plain lazy or they do not give a hoot? Picking up litter is a job for someone else.
There are many ways that the city budget can be reduced. We, as citizens of Hartselle, will have to decide what we are willing to pay for and how we want our local tax dollars spent.