AMESBURY — The City Council’s finance committee endorsed four free cash spending proposals put forth by the mayor after a lengthy discussion, setting the stage for each to be voted on at the council’s next meeting on April 9.
After hours of deliberation, the finance committee unanimously endorsed a proposal to allocate $125,000 in free cash — or unspent tax dollars — toward improvements in existing city parks, with a caveat that at least $100,000 be put toward the Town Park and most of the rest toward the Collins Street Playground.
The committee also endorsed a proposal to put $25,000 of free cash toward the restoration of city war memorials by a vote of 8-1, with Councilor Donna McClure casting the only no vote, along with $20,000 of free cash toward the hiring of a solar park development consultant by a 7-2 vote.
The closest vote was on using $30,000 to hire a city branding consultant to help market Amesbury and bring in prospective developers. That proposal was endorsed 5-4 after Councilor Allen Neale cast the fifth and deciding vote.
Originally the four proposals were lumped together in one bill, but the council voted to split them up into individual parts after councilors James Kelcourse and Joseph McMilleon protested that the items had little to do with one another and were lumped together as a political ploy.
Kelcourse argued that by lumping the four proposals together, the councilors were being put in a position where they had to weigh proposals that they favored, like the parks and war memorials portions, with ones like the branding consultant that they didn’t think was a good idea. If they voted against the bill in that case, Kelcourse said, then they would feel the wrath of angry moms upset about the park portion not being passed.
“Since when do we start piggybacking things?” Kelcourse asked. “I think each one of these things deserve their own analysis.”