These bags contain approximately 600 cigarette butts picked up in downtown Syracuse recently. Heidi Blake, of Kosciusko County Tobacco Free Coalition, said two of three cigarette butts are littered and can find their way into storm sewers and lakes. Photo by Denise Federow
These bags contain approximately 600 cigarette butts picked up in downtown Syracuse recently. Heidi Blake, of Kosciusko County Tobacco Free Coalition, said two of three cigarette butts are littered and can find their way into storm sewers and lakes. Photo by Denise Federow
SYRACUSE – Syracuse council members unanimously passed a $4.9 million budget for 2020 on Tuesday.

The total budget is $4,173,220, with an additional $782,520 in economic development tax and tax increment finance funds for a total budget of $4,955,720.

The town is expecting a tax levy of $2,163,758 and a tax rate of $1.02 per $100 of assessed valuation.

The 2020 budget is $103,640 more than the 2019 budget of $4,069,580. There was an increase in the general budget, which includes the town manager’s budget, the clerk-treasurer’s budget and the police budget to $2.09 million from last year’s $1.97 million; but a large decrease in the local roads and streets budget, which was $200,000 last year and $85,000 this year. Increases in the budget were due to pay raise, insurance costs and Public Employee Retirement Fund costs.

The motor vehicle highway budget is $959,000 and the park budget is $503,420.

Heidi Blake, of Kosciusko County Tobacco Free Coalition, returned to the council to give another presentation about making Syracuse a tobacco-free and smoke-free air community. She showed council members bags containing 600 cigarette butts that she said she and the chamber of commerce and youth coalition collected in downtown Syracuse. She reminded the council that cigarette butts can go right into the storm sewers and into the lakes.

She provided council members with copies of model ordinances to consider adopting. Blake said communities that are smoke free have economic growth because businesses want to go there. She said since the state law gives exemptions to veterans clubs and bars, that’s where the coalition wants to focus.

That statement had council member Bill Musser asking where one’s rights come in to play. “You’re taking my rights away if I want to go into a bar and smoke. We have rights in America – you can’t take everything away,” he said.

A discussion started of how everyone pays the price in one way or another for smokers. President Larry Martindale asked how many communities in Kosciusko County have enacted this policy and Blake said none. Musser asked if theirs was the only council she was presenting to, and when she responded yes he asked why. She said because the town manager supported it and also because of the lakes in the community.

Town Manager Mike Noe informed the council the town was awarded a Community Crossing Grant for $339,597.75 with the town match of $113,996.25. He said that gives the town over $450,000 to repair streets and sidewalks.

“I’m excited about that,” he said.

The council passed an ordinance adding an additional handicapped parking space on the southwest corner of East Main and North Harrison in front of the library.

Ordinances became a subject of discussion later in the meeting as Musser brought up researching whether the town should be charging for building permits. Council Member Larry Siegel said they needed to first clarify when a building permit is required.

Council Member Paul Stoelting said he thought they should reconsider the ordinance passed about six months ago restricting parking on one side of the street. He said he wasn’t sure all the streets should’ve been included. Stoelting said there were times in the summer that he couldn’t park in front of his own house this summer. He mentioned boats and trailers taking up more space on the street than cars.

He was told the ordinance was not enacted for parking purposes but rather for fire and emergency medical response purposes. Police Chief Jim Layne and Fire Chief Mickey Scott reminded them that the fire apparatus and ambulances struggled to get down those streets or open their doors with vehicles parked on both sides of the street.

Layne said, “In order to enforce it we had to make it the same everywhere” and also to help with traffic flow.

Layne said while they were talking about ordinances, he felt that the town’s ordinances as a whole needed to be revisited.

“With all the ordinances that have been passed over the years, being able to enforce them is nil. It’s very vague,” he said. “And if we write a citation and they don’t pay the fine, where do we go from there?”

He said he wanted to talk to other communities and see how they handle it since they don’t have court in town. He suggested writing into the ordinances that the offenders would need to pay the court costs if they have to take them to small claims court.

Layne said he and Noe and the clerk-treasurer would work on that over the winter with the goal of bringing uniformity and enforceability to the ordinances.

In other business, the council:

• Approved the purchase of a 2019 Dodge Durango demo vehicle from John Jones, Salem, for $39,498 including being fully equipped. Insurance will pay $26,338.42 for a vehicle that was totaled with $16,000 going toward paying off the original lease.

• Approved updating the water meter equipment at a cost of $12,000.

• Heard upcoming parks department events include the indoor garage sale this Saturday. The Haunted Thrill at Crosson Mill will take place Oct. 25, 26 and 31.

• Heard trick-or-treat hours in Syracuse have been set for 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 31.