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June 28, 2013

Despite power outage, Lawrence City Council passes budget

LAWRENCE — A power failure affecting 3,000 homes and businesses knocked the lights out at City Hall last night, threatening to derail an important vote on the city’s budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

About 70 people — including most of the city department heads — still sat in the dark when the meeting finally convened 23 minutes late.

But aided by emergency lighting set up at the City Council table by Department of Public Works employees, councilors got enough light to read what they were voting on, passing Mayor William Lantigua’s $255.3 million budget by a 6-3 margin.

Just one night after a controversial and dramatic session that took more than five hours and ended after midnight, councilors needed less than half an hour to take care of business.

Lantigua called the council’s budget vote in the dark “a first.”

“I have never seen anything like it, but it didn’t stop them from conducting business,” he said.

“I’m glad it’s over and I’m glad they adopted the budget with very little cut. It’s a budget that we can afford and it funds all the departments to the level we can afford. Just being able to pass the budget on time — it’s a huge accomplishment,” Lantigua said.

Councilors were facing the potential for a long weekend that could involve emergency sessions to adopt a budget on time, or allow the mayor to adopt a provisional budget to keep the city running at the start of the new fiscal year, which begins Monday. That could have been challenging, as the mayor was bracing for a showdown with councilors if they failed to pass the budget.

“I was not going to do a 30-day budget. I was just going to let the chips fall where they fall, because I went through a lot of pain to put this budget together,” Lantigua said.

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