Phenix City Council will await audit before new borrowing

The new Phenix City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night that will put the brakes on future municipal borrowing while it awaits results from city audits dating back to 2010. The 2010 and 2011 audits are due back next month.

The moratorium does not halt any ongoing projects funded by bonds.

"In today's environment you have to be conservative," said Mayor Eddie Lowe.

He cited several times during the approval of the resolution that the new council wants to be good stewards of public funds.

"Just because you can borrow money, doesn't mean you need to," Lowe said after the meeting.

Lowe and all four councilmembers took office this month as Phenix City voters swept the entire old council out in an August election. The action to halt borrowing comes after the Public Building Authority at the direction of the previous council borrowed more than $20 million for multiple projects that included the purchase of the old Cobb Hospital site, demolition of the structures and a planned new municipal complex. Not all of that money has been spent.

Lowe said, "nothing is being stopped," but at-large council member Chris Blackshear did say the council would look at how the money was being spent.

"Some of the projects are in progress waiting to be completed," Blackshear said. "Some are still in their infancy. We will nurse those in the direction they need to go."

The ban on borrowing could be lifted in the case of a natural disaster, according to the resolution.

Council also put training and certification requirements in place for members of the Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Adjustments.

It was done with a unanimous 5-0 vote.

"We want people on these boards who have skin in the game," Lowe said.

The minimum requirements were removed by a previous council.

Board members have 18 months from appointment to obtain the necessary training and certification. The cost will be paid for by the city.

The new council held its first night meeting, trying to get more citizen involvement, Lowe said.

"We are trying to make it as conducive as we possible can to let the citizens know what's going on," Lowe said.

Council chambers were mostly full for the one-hour meeting that started at 6 p.m.