Concluding the final Dover City Council session of 2013, President David Bonar advised fellow council members and the public that there will be some tough choices to make while figuring out how to run the city for the next 12 months and beyond.
At the top of the list is dealing with a projected deficit of more than $7 million over the next five years and the probability -- not just a possibility -- that city residents will see increased taxes and drastic cuts in services or a combination of the two.
Without going into specifics, Bonar used the waning moments of the hour-long session to acknowledge the tasks facing council in the coming year.
"It's going to be a challenging year in 2014," he said. "I think the public should expect some lively debate when it comes to our budget."
Some of that debate will begin Thursday afternoon with the inaugural meeting of the council's newly appointed ad hoc Financial and Organizational Advisory Committee.
Chaired by councilman and former Mayor James L. Hutchison Sr., the panel has been charged with examining city finances with an eye toward making recommendations on increasing efficiency and decreasing costs within city government.
The organizational meeting, which will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. in the City Hall conference room, also will receive a snapshot of the city's financial picture from Controller/Treasurer Donna Mitchell.
In other news, council voted 5-2 to deny a staff recommendation to provide a new car for Mayor Carleton E. Carey Sr. Dover Police Chief James Hosfelt said the police department wanted to rotate Carey's current vehicle, a 2011 Crown Victoria, back into the police fleet in exchange for his using a new Dodge Charger.
A car allocated for the mayor's use has traditionally come from the police fleet.
Hosfelt told council's Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee on Nov. 25 the department could install already purchased police equipment into the Crown Victoria; Monday night Hosfelt said it would cost approximately $18,000 to install the same equipment into a Dodge Charger, since the specifications for that vehicle are different from the Crown Victoria.
Councilman William Hare seemed to express the mood most council members in saying he felt Carey should keep his current vehicle.
"I just think that it's better to have the new one on the police force," he said.
One item the council did not take up was Carey's Dec. 3 decision to veto the demolition of a now-vacant recreation building at Dover Park. The building has been the subject of debate in the community since an earlier decision to tear it down met with public protest about the lack of recreational opportunities on the east side of the city.
"There weren't enough votes to override the veto," Bonar said.
However, he added, "We will find a way to build a new building.
"The residents of that district, in particular the children, need and deserve a place for them to safely have recreation and learning experiences.
"That's a large part of what the city should provide in the way of recreation."
Because of the upcoming holidays, council will not meet again until Monday, Jan. 13.