As I have mentioned many times in previous columns, there is no slow time in city government. I often am quoted by saying the city never sleeps as we are open 24/7. The winter months provide a different set of challenges mostly related to the weather. The 2008 budget was officially passed Jan. 10. The city charter requires the passing of our city budget no later than the second Thursday of every January. The tax rate and tax levy this year were both less than in 2007. The total budget is close to $50 million. Although this budget was not perfect, it was a fair budget in a very difficult time. Next year, we are facing some very serious situations that may impact personnel and city services. There were some controversial issues during the budget sessions leading up to the budget vote. For example, I did not include raises for city management this year which was a very difficult decision on my part. We have some very good department heads which I believe have excellent salaries and benefits and although I would like to have given raises, I did not feel the city could afford to do this at this time. Councilor Chris Jackson, new this year, proposed giving the raises which sparked quite a bit of discussion among the Common Council and the community. The council, with the exception of Councilor Jackson, decided not to add the raises to the budget. During the budget sessions, the departmental budgets were analyzed and reviewed several times. Whether to fund the Battle of Plattsburgh and Mayor's Cup, how much overtime to include in each department, whether or not to hire new employees, what percentage to raise water and sewer rates, what equipment to purchase, street construction projects, recreation fee schedules, were all topics of conversation and debate. It is a lengthy process which involves the mayor, council and department heads. Everyone involved did an outstanding job and deserves credit. As usual, the mayor's office is a busy place even in January. I met with Town Supervisor Bernie Bassett and developer Peter Edelman regarding the North Country Shopping Center project which impacts the north end of the city. I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a luncheon at PSUC for the Canadian Ambassador, Michael Wilson, who gave an excellent speech on the relationship between our two countries. I met with Ed Martin from Schluter Systems to discuss their expansion plans which are very exciting. I gave my State of the City Address to the Annual League of Women Voters Potluck Membership Luncheon. Sara Rowden, Bernie Bassett, and I attended a forum presented by the Adirondack Young Professionals and sponsored by Whiteman, Osterman, and Hanna. It was refreshing to answer questions from this group as they hold the region's future in their hands. I attended Gov. Spitzer's announcement in Rouses Point that the Wyeth Facility is not closing which is great news for all the North Country. I attended the annual cleaning of the food shelter kitchen on Martin Luther King Jr. Day with Maxine Perry, Judge Penny Clute, Dr. Skopp, Capt. Frank Pabst, Tom Moran and others. And, as usual, I handled numerous constituent and personnel issues. As we move through February, the weather will be the priority to deal with. My schedule will include bargaining unit negotiations, a Conference of Mayor's Meeting, several public hearings, and the everyday challenges government faces. The most enjoyable part of being the mayor of Plattsburgh, however, is meeting, working and dealing with wonderful people everyday! Stay warm and be safe!