Sistersville City Council Discusses Audit Concerns
Sistersville City Council recently convened and began the meeting by swearing in newly elected officials including Mayor Bill Rice, City Recorder Heather Rice, Chief of Police Rob Haught, and council members Richard Long, Chuck Heinlein, Phil Konopacky and Bonnie Hizer. City officials discussed a new accounting software to be used by the city. It was stated the old system had a great deal of bad information, so it was advised to start fresh and use audit reports as a base to start from. The problem with this is the city doesn’t have a solid audit to use. The last complete audit was conducted in 2012, and things are not lined up yet for this year’s audit. The state auditors have been struggling to make sense of the city audit, and they are the ones that suggested the city start with fresh numbers. Mayor Rice suggested hiring an accountant to go through the numbers in order to make sense of all the paperwork. The problem stems as far back as 2014. The goal is to start the new accounting system with new audit numbers to make sure that the city financial records are accurate and ready to move forward. A motion passed to allow Quick Books to give a demonstration on their accounting software. It was added that the old system, CSSI, would still be needed to complete utility bills. Under department head reports, there was nothing to report; however, Councilman Heinlein made some requests of items that he would like to see presented at the next council meeting. He would like to see a maintenance schedule on city vehicles, the cost of a snow removal truck and blade, statuses on pumps that failed, a report from FEMA on the water plant, and updates on the garbage truck.
The Park and Pool Board reported it is trying to raise funds to purchase new playground equipment.
The Ferry Board reported it is looking for a new deck hand for the summer season. The Planning Commission reported Terry Wiley was given a three-year term with the Planning Commission and Urban Renewal Authority. Also, there will be students placing the new entry signs at each end of town. At the top of each sign there will be a picture of the city building.
The Water Board reported it is trying to find the funding to pay for the second half of the water and sewer audits. King’s Corner will be having a sidewalk sale May 3-5. There are also rain days included in the case of bad weather. Councilman Alex King recused himself from the vote since it was a family matter, but the motion passed to allow the sidewalk sale. The city held the second reading of the Dilapidated Properties Ordinance. It was noted the city would need consent or a search warrant before entering into any home falling under the ordinance. A motion passed accepting the ordinance. The James Willison Family Center was on the agenda, so council members could address the shape of the building. Councilman Alex King would like to board up the windows and mothball the building in order to keep it from degrading even more. It was mentioned that plastic and plywood could be placed on the outside of the windows at a minimal cost to help preserve the building and buy the city some time to make a decision on the building. Also, handicapped parking around the building was discussed. There was some debating on the best way to accommodate parking with the limited amount of space available. The topic was tabled until more information can be gathered.The topic of a park curfew came up and it was decided that with spring and summer activities coming, there would be no actual curfew but the city police will be patrolling the area at their discretion. It was mentioned the city has been paying utilities on a house on Alley A and that was an expense the city didn’t need to be paying. The city discussed selling the house to get funds out of it, but the building will need a good bit of work done to it. That way they would get funding for utilities, as opposed to paying out utilities. There were some concerns over a dilapidated building on Diamond Street, and a former resident came forward and informed council he has lived in that house since he was eight and then he had to move out. He stated he cannot come up with the funding to take care of the house or to even have it demolished. He wants to see it torn down, because it is a safety and fire hazard. He asked the city for suggestions on how to get the building down. He is trying to be proactive about addressing the dilapidated building. It was suggested to speak with the Building and Safety Commission to get a quote and return the information back to council. Councilman Heinlein added he would like to see items added to the regular agenda for the future including parking meter receipts, annual fire reports, and report on road damages. He would also see a demonstration from Chief Haught’s Police Dog, Thor. Heinlein also added that, “Many of the local police are getting criticized for what they don’t do, or don’t get done, and I think that the public forgets that they are under certain restraints that we may not know about.” Heinlein explained, “There are several moving pieces in public justice, and the police should not get blamed for the release of felons.” It was explained the magistrate sets the bond limits, and it is up to the court system as to whether or not to offer bond, based on terms and conditions. Heinlein added that in many cases, the police do their job and either the court or the prosecuting attorney feels it is not necessary to incarcerate these people. He said the police should not be blamed for this.
The next scheduled Sisterville City Council meeting is set for May 14 beginning at 7 p.m. and located at the city building in Sistersville.