Blythewood council passes 1st reading on 3 budget amendments

Vote Ups Legal Budget to $145K

BLYTHEWOOD – Town Council gave approval to first reading of three budget amendments Monday evening, with a unanimous vote on two out of the three.

The amendment that passed 4-1 will increase the Legal and Professional budget to reflect the increasing legal costs caused by the current lawsuits, Town Administrator Carroll Williamson explained.

The amendment increases the current $60,000 budgeted amount by $85,000 to $145,000 with the majority of it earmarked for the MPA Strategies’ lawsuit against the Town and the Town’s countersuit. As of the end of January, the Town had spent $78,929.

Last week, Joseph Dickey, the attorney for MPA Strategies, stated in court documents that MPA, which filed a Freedom of Information complaint stating the Town violated public records laws, next plans to sue the Town for defamation and breach of contract, according to court documents.

Councilman Donald Brock suggested at the February budget meeting that the Town stop its financial bleed and settle the suit. Both Mayor Bryan Franklin and Councilman Rich McKenrick expressed that they didn’t want to go against the Town’s outside attorney’s advice to increase the budget by $80,000 and continue the cases. Attorney David Black, with Nexsen Pruet is representing the Town in both lawsuits.

“As we are projecting to increase this, do we have any idea if we’ll have to increase it again?” Councilman Sloan Griffin asked.

“So for this fiscal year [ending June 30], I don’t think so. That was my question coming up with this. This was meant to get us through [June],” Williamson said.

“So going in to the next budget session, do you think we need to keep it at this highest amount?” Griffin asked.

“I was going to seek some guidance on that as we prepare,” Williamson said. “I would think so, because of what we have going on.”

“I know the public might be curious, too, if we’re asking for more funds to be put into a legal placeholder that’s going to continue to rise,” Griffin added.

Sod and Irrigation Costs

Council voted 5-0 to amend the capital Improvement Fund by increasing expenditures to cover the cost of sod and irrigation at Doko Station across from town hall. That work was completed last fall.

“This amendment will replace the amount [$42,483] we spent making improvements to the property surrounding the depot building which was an unbudgeted expense at the time,” Williamson said.  “The money is in the bank designated from the sale of that property to be used for improvements for the sod and irrigation that’s out there.”

ARP Funds for Manor

“The third budget amendment is driven by the need to adjust the projected revenue to the Manor this fiscal year due largely to the unexpected cancellations during COVID,” Williamson said. “To adjust for this lack of projected revenue we are proposing that we add [$195,413 of the] American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds into this current budget and that will include funds that we have received the first half of this year for the Manor as well as for new flooring for the Manor.

“This also covers transfers from the general fund, H-Tax fund.”

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