BELLEVILLE — Following a heated discussion, the City Council voted 11-5 Monday to approve a $118 million budget for fiscal year 2013-14 before a standing-room-only crowd at City Hall.
The three-hour long public meeting covered a smorgasbord of controversial topics, from a Belle Valley Industrial Park II lot sold for $800 to the city's new dog park.
Near the end of the meeting, Mayor Mark Eckert announced that City Attorney Patrick "Mike" Flynn would not seek reappointment.
Eckert did not give a reason why Flynn, of Belleville firm Flynn, Guymon & Garavalia, will leave his post at the end of the month.
Eckert recommended Flynn, the city's longtime assistant city attorney, after Robert Sprague resigned last May after serving in the position for more than 30 years.
Council members who voted against approving the budget were: Ward 2 Alderwoman Melinda Hult, Ward 4 Aldermen Tim Carpenter and Dean Hardt, Ward 5 Alderman Joe Hayden and Ward 7 Alderwoman Lillian Schneider.
All of the "no" votes were from the council independents who also voted against the 2012-13 budget last year.
The exception was Ward 7 Alderman Phil Elmore, who voted "no" last year and approved it this year. Elmore voted "no" earlier Monday evening when the budget was forwarded for a final vote as an ordinance.
At the onset of the budget discussion, Hayden asked to postpone the budget vote to give newly elected officials time to review it and give input. New officials will not be seated on the council until May.
Mayor Mark Eckert said it would be "a grave mistake" to postpone voting on the budget. The fiscal year starts on May 1.
Hayden, who lost his bid for mayor in a citywide election last week, said the newly elected officials deserve the chance to review the budget before it's passed. Eckert said they had a chance to comment at public meetings and hearings in recent weeks.
Hayden's request to postpone the budget vote was denied. He then requested the city hire a police officer instead of a full-time staffer for the Economic Development Department.
Elmore, who also lost his bid for mayor, said there's money in the budget for hiring police. "The money's there," he said. "It can be done."
Eckert said Police Chief William Clay and he already have plans in works to hire a police officer.
Hayden asked for the $400,000 budgeted for the Meredith Home demolition to research building a new city pool and to fix streets.
Eckert laughed at the idea and said $400,000 isn't enough for such projects. The council voted down the idea.
Carpenter asked to divert $1.2 million from Meredith Home demolition and state money for police hires and infrastructure upgrades. However, his suggestion was voted down.
Finance Director Jamie Maitret said the city's expenditures budget is actually about $103 million because the total figure includes a $15 million loan from the state Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for the city's sewer plant project.
The budget includes salaries for new hires: a full-time administrative employee, a full-time GIS coordinator-land use employee and three part-time community resource officers.
In other business:
* Aldermen voted to sell a 0.8-acre lot located off Tower Plaza in the Belle Valley Industrial Park for $800 to Larry Glaenzer, who owns a business adjacent to the vacant parcel. Some aldermen and residents questioned the low sale cost.
Eckert said Glaenzer seeded and maintained the property for years and the land could not be used for much else because of its size and wedge shape.
Hayden asked for the sale to include legal measures that would prevent Glaenzer from billing and suing the city in the future for not fulfilling parts of the business agreement.
* The city's new dog park at Rotary Park will have membership-based fee structure. The membership costs will be different for Belleville residents and nonresidents. Hayden voiced opposition to the proposal. He said Belleville taxpayers shouldn't pay $24 a year, the cost for a resident's first dog, to use a public park.
* Aldermen denied a variance with a 13-3 vote for a couple wanting to renovate and rent out buildings in a single-family area as multifamily. The couple planned to live across the street from the two unoccupied, deteriorating buildings at 203 and 209 E. Garfield St. Aldermen Kinsella, Hult and Carpenter were in favor of the variance.
* City Treasurer Jerry Turner, who was not re-elected in the citywide election last week after serving two terms, thanked Belleville residents for their support.
Turner also recognized the service of other council members whose time on the council may be up after ballot results are made official later this month, especially City Clerk Linda Fields who has worked for the city since the 1970s as either a staffer or elected official.
A recount is still possible in the aldermanic races for incumbents Tim Carpenter, who lost by one vote, and Dorothy Meyer, who lost by three votes.
The City Council will have an end-of-the-year meeting at the end of April in which former council members will be recognized for their service. Newly elected city officials are scheduled to be sworn in on May 1.
Turner received a standing ovation for his parting words: "Put the city first always." He also advised council members to put aside their egos on the council floor and to not grandstand.
Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.