Racer questions Council, Mayor
Paden City resident Charlie Racer once again challenged the city’s decision to bring in Ginger Wilcox on a part-time, temporary basis to “straighten out” the city’s financial books, among other questions.
“My first question last month was, is it true that the city brought Ginger Wilcox in to straighten out the city financial books because they are not correct…?”
City Attorney Carolyn Flannery addressed Racer’s question. “I don’t believe that Ginger was brought in to correct the books. The recorder submitted his resignation from his position. Because of the type of position, the council wisely sought the services of Ginger Wilcox because she has been the recorder before and is familiar with the books.”
“Is she (Ginger) part-time, temporary?” Racer inquired.
Flannery answered, “Yes.”
“So we do not have a full-time recorder?” Racer interjected.
“No, not at this time,” stated Flannery.
Racer continued, “Is it true that over the past few months several bills have become delinquent and past due notices have been issued. . . causing the city to pay unnecessary late fees?”
“I don’t know all the specifics of what was paid and what was not paid,” Flannery said. “I believe there are some bills that have not been paid, whether or not there are late fees or interest incurred on them. . . I don’t have all the details on that.”
Mayor Bill Fox replied, “Some of the bills did have late fees and we were charged penalties. But we got with the companies and were able to resolve those issues. Under the circumstances, the penalties have been waived.”
“So the city has not paid any penalties at all?” Racer asked.
“As of this date, no,” Mayor Fox stated. “We have been able to get those corrected.”
“Have the books been closed for the last fiscal year July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010, and has an audit been completed, received, and accepted by the council?”
“No that has not been done,” Fox said. “An audit is being conducted by the State Auditor’s Office. We had a meeting with the auditor tonight and finalized the audit, but that was was for 2008 through 2009.
Racer said, “So you don’t audit when you close the books?”
“This was the first time we’ve had an auditor in and he finished up this evening with an exit conference,” Fox stated.
“So this exit conference was with the entire council?” Racer asked.
Fox said, “The entire council could have been here. They were invited. But it was not mandatory.”
Councilman Tom Trader said, “I didn’t know anything about the meeting.”
Fox replied, “I’m sorry that you didn’t know.”
According to Mayor Fox, the results of the audit will be made available to the citizens of Paden City through the auditor’s office.
“Lastly, does this council receive and discuss quarterly budget revisions?” Racer asked.
Mayor Fox informed Racer that they were not done quarterly or even semi-annually. “When we sit down to prepare the budget, we will see where we are at that particular time and take it from there,” Fox said.
“You don’t do it (updates) at all then, until you prepare next year’s budget.” Racer commented.
“That’s about what it comes to,” Fox said.
After hearing the committee reports, the Paden City Council entertained the third and final reading of a bond ordinance providing for the issuance of sewer revenue bonds. The proceeds from the bonds will be used to pay the costs for acquisitions, construction, betterments and improvements to the city’s sewage system. The bond is payable solely from revenue to be derived from the ownership and operation of the system.
Fox put the bond in layman’s terms. “This is a $2 million sewer project that has been ongoing since 2003. Finally, we have received the bid and assigned the contract. We will hold a special meeting in a week or two. Hopefully we will break ground in early-spring. It’s been a long process, but we are getting there.”
John Stump of Steptoe and Johnson was on hand to act as the city’s bond counsel. Mayor Fox opened the floor up for public comment, as prompted by Stump.
Resident Mike Turner asked, “Will we have another increase?”
Interim Recorder Tammy Billiter replied, “The city enacted an increase in our city and water fees a couple years ago to help incorporate this. We have not had an increase since. At that time we were expecting this project to come in at a little over $2 million. We were able to get it down to $175,000. Not only will we not have an increase in any of our utilities, but we are going to have our monthly loan payments reduced.”
Over the course of 30 years, the city expects to save $700,000, thanks to the careful handling of revenue funds.
“You are fortunate that your sewer project came in significantly lower than what was budgeted. So, whereas the ordinance approves $2.5 million in total borrowing, the exact amount borrowed will end up being less than that,” Stump explained.
“The scope of the project has been determined by the Public Service Commission under state law. As far as what pieces within that (scope) and how they are done is left up to the engineering firm to determine. But the actual components of the project have been established,” Stump said.
Fox informed the residents that the project will start in the lower end of Paden City because that is where the majority of the problems exist.
The council accepted the resignation of First Ward Councilman Jarrell Bailey. Mayor Fox read Bailey’s resignation letter into the meeting minutes.
Bailey wrote, “Mayor Bill Fox and members of the City Council: Effective Jan. 3, 2011, I am resigning as first ward councilman. I have thought through this decision. . . and I feel that I cannot devote the time needed.”
Bailey’s resignation leaves an open seat in the First Ward, along with the aforementioned position of Recorder, to be filled.
Before adjourning, a question regarding the noise ordinance was posed. Mayor Fox answered, “I have drafted an ordinance but no one has seen it. I will get it typed so you guys (the council) can read it, but right now we have more pressing issues.”
The Paden City Council will meet again in regular session at 7 p.m. on Feb. 7 in the council chambers of the municipal building.