As I have talked about before, Mayor Ronnie is one of those rare birds who absolutely loves budgets. To him, they are like a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, and when by state law that last piece is put in place by September 30th, he and the rest of City Council is free to enjoy Fiddlers’ and Storytelling. With this year being special anniversaries for both, he was especially glad that the “budget came in on time and under budget.”
He was very pleased to report that the General Fund will be $1.2 million dollars in the black, and our city is in good shape to face several challenges. First of all, there are several city employees who have reached retirement age, and as is the case with many Baby Boomers, funding their retirement packages is not easy, by virtue of the fact that we are a huge part of the population.
“We are going to be able to get the fire truck we need, and it is on its way,” he said. Other things that are going to be able to be purchased will be a garbage truck and new police cars. “Public safety is always going to be our top priority,” he said, and the top two budget items were both tied to filling that need.
He spent a good deal of time expressing his gratitude for the work of all the department heads, City Council members and especially that of Annette Barnes. I know from experience that the woman’s command with numbers, both those that are in “the red” as well as those in “the black” is phenomenal. “Tons of work was done prior to the vote on the budget,” he said. He mentioned that Councilman Frank Travis, the newest member of Athens City Council was amazed at the work Annette had done before they had their all day work session to button up the budget.
“We got it done, and now we can head straight in to festival season,” said Mayor Ronnie. He took a moment to reflect on the positive effect the 5K runs have on our community. He started with the 9/11 Heroes’ Run, the Keep Athens Limestone Beautiful Duck and Run, the Apple Annie Charity 5K, and as one who has run in those races, I can say he has always been on hand early on race day to cheer people on. In addition, this weekend the Wacky Quacky Ducky Derby will be held on Saturday during Fiddlers’, and he will even be on hand to cheer on the ducks as they “fly” down the spillway of Big Spring Park.
“Festival season is just that much sweeter because the budget is finished,” he said with reasonable pride. Then he mentioned his concern for Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson, who, at the time of our interview was in Athens Limestone Hospital battling pneumonia. “Oh, man,” I said, “Let’s pray.” So we did, and then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
It was later that day it was with great joy that I got the news that Chief had been released from the hospital to his home, and as far as I am concerned, for all of us, that was as sweet as the music of any festival, and the best of any stories.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner