At the Tuesday, Sept. 4 Altus Municipal Authority (AMA) and City Council meeting many of the items were proposed by the Council members, rather than the administration. Many involved issues that impacted the efficiency of the City or the lives of the citizens.
One issue proposed discontinuing “Christmas in the Park”. The topic of this 16-year tradition generated lots of discussion. The big expense for this project is the labor, Mayor David Webb said. People are required to put up, take down and maintain the the light displays, run the train and the concession stand, and provide security. James Wilson said the hours are worth $40,000 to $50,000 in salary and benefits. Electricity is only a couple of hundred dollars, said Electrical Superintendent Dan Scott. New Parks and Rec Director Craig Tockey said that his staff could find plenty to do if “Christmas in the Park” was eliminated, but they want to whatever Council wishes. The “Christmas in the Park” project started last year with a $2,500 deficit and ended up with a positive balance of $3,000 in donations, Tockey said.
Discussed in this subject were shorter hours for the train and concession stand, decreased number of displays, a rather “Christmas in the Park Lite”, as Council member Jack Smiley called it. The Council has recommended that the project remain, but that Tockey scale it down to a manageable size and bring back the plans to the Council at the next meeting on Sept. 18.
During the AMA, the trustees approved the Consent Agenda minus one item segregated by Rick Henry. It was for the Prime Group, which is conducting a rate study for the City. Prime Group has not provided the information to the City yet due to a need for data and their own personnel changes. Henry was the dissenting vote on approving the lone item. The Consent Agenda included: approval of minutes for the Altus Municipal Authority Meeting on August 21, from the Old Budget: purchase orders for FY 2011-2012 for the Enterprise Fund totaling $3,340.40, from the New Budget: purchase orders for FY 2012-2013 for the Enterprise Fund totaling $427,784.75.
The “Street Overlay” Committee presented the trustees/council members a report on progress and status of a project to reconstruct North Park Lane and Falcon Road. Much of the funding for the Park Lane, Falcon Road East, Falcon Road West and Navajoe Gateway Streetscape projects is from various grants and some earmarks. The trustees voted to approve the Committee recommendations which required over $100,000 to be transferred from the emergency fund. The emergency fund is being replenished by money saved on salaries and benefits from those positions that were eliminated, according to City Finance Director James Wilson.
There was no new business, and the AMA adjourned at 7:02 p.m.
The Council Consent Agenda as approved minus four items pulled out by Council member Perry Shelton. They were approved after explanation. The Consent Agenda included: approval of minutes for the Regular City Council Meeting on August 21, from the Old Budget: purchase orders for FY 2011-2012 for the General Fund totaling $572.73, from the New Budget: purchase orders for FY 2012-2013 for the General Fund totaling $37,294.12, for the Workers Comp Fund totaling $87,059.66, for the Donation Fund totaling $585.00, for the Airport Fund totaling $1,745.25, for the Hotel/Motel Tax Fund totaling $26,092.21; Consider approving an estimated payroll for September 13, as follows: Salaries - $313,179.00Part Time Wages - $ 11,545.00, Overtime - $ 7,415.46, Contractual OT - $ 12,923.08, Incentive, License Pay - $ 6,093.00, Employer Paid Taxes - $ 22,909.00, Employee Paid Taxes - $ 62,635.80, Employer Paid Benefits - $110,560.50, Employee Paid Benefits - $ 50,108.64, Workers Comp - $ 12,960.00, for a total estimated amount of: $610,328.98; Payroll figures for August 16: Prior Estimate/Actual: Salaries - $318,776.00/ $316,667.06; Part Time Wages - $ 12,181.00/ $ 14,744.55, Overtime - $ 7,415.46/ $12,050.80, Contractual Overtime - $ 12,923.46/ $12,413.37, Incentive, License Pay - $ 6,268.00/$6,145.35, Employer Paid Taxes - $ 23,209.00/ $22,483.48, Employee Paid Taxes - $ 61,204.99/ $63,885.83, Employer Paid Benefits - $111,009.00/$120,764.96, Employee Paid Benefits - $ 48,453.95/$50,631.35, Workers Comp - $ 13,288.00/$14,812.50, for a total amount of: $614,728.48/$634,599.25 percentage of difference 3.2% higher than prior estimate; monthly report and minutes from the City and School Swimming Pool.
For the sake of those who would be traveling in the night, the Council voted to move the Executive Session items to the fourth item in the Council meeting, instead of at the end of the meeting. Council was out from 7:10 to 7:46 p.m. on the EEOD complaint filed by Marinda S. Ingram and in a separate item, they received an update on the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) negotiations.
In open session, Council voted to go into mediation for the EEOD complaint and waive the attorney client privilege as to Scott Wood only. Wood is legal counsel hired by the City’s insurance carrier, OMAG, and was involved in Dan Scott’s July 21 hearing. There was no action taken on the update from the FOP.
The Council members voted to re-instate the “Comments from the Audience” item. They discussed criteria for comments, but several members felt the audience comments had worked for years as they were. Shelton said, “That’s called freedom.”
Council member Rick Steen proposed hiring an engineer. He felt that someone with this professional expertise may actually save the City time and money. City Administrator Elizabeth Gray said two of the places she had worked had engineers on staff. They don’t necessarily prevent the need to hire another engineer, but, Gray said, someone is watching the hen house. The Council voted to go out for RFQs for engineers to plan ahead for next year’s budget.
Council voted to approve an Addendum to the Contract for Services between the City of Altus and the Altus/Southwest Area Economic Development Corporation (EDC) dated August 7, to authorize the transfer of the Hotel/Motel Tax fund, Escrow Account in the amount of $76,470.63 to the EDC, in addition to the monthly transfer of Hotel/Motel Tax funds.
Take home vehicles were discussed. There are currently seven vehicles allowed to go home with an employee, in addition to those of police and firefighter staff. A separate consideration for Fire Chief/Fire Marshal Jerry Abbott will be discussed at a later date. Freddy Perez, Cemetery Superintendent made 175 trips to the cemetery on weekends or after work last year. An exempt employee, he receives no overtime for his work after hours. He asked for a take home vehicle. Phil Beauchamp, engineering tech, an exempt employee, also asked for a take home vehicle for numerous trips after hours. The Council decided that the budget is still too new to start taking on more expenses. The current take home vehicle list was approved.
At the last meeting, Council member Scot Simco had asked Public Works Director Bob Stephenson for a report on storm water management, specifically involving the Dollar General detention pond. Stephenson, in an explanation, said that due to time constraints, he “failed to look at the drawings”. The result is the large empty detention pond just south of the new Dollar General store on S. Main Street. Stephenson said that in the autumn there will be bushes and trees planted there to help naturally drain storm water runoff. Simco wanted to learn from the experience and was asking for a uniform policy covering businesses coming into Altus. Stephenson said the same situation will not happen again. Many businesses have been able to use vegetative drainage valleys or strips to draw and drain run off.
Four additional items in the Council meeting concerned the Park Lane Project. One was a companion item to the report presented in the AMA. It was approved. Three items, including contracts with the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), additional City-owned street right-of-way, were all approved.
The purchase of a $14,600.00, used, 4-door, 2009 Police Pursuit Sedan from the State of Kansas Highway Patrol Fleet Sales was approved. The funds come from the insurance settlement from a police unit that was totalled. An additional $1,892 will come from the Police Department budget.
Candace Willingham, representative of the Altus Recreation Advisory Committee, gave the Council a report on the City’s Wrestling Program. After discussion on ways to save this program, the Council voted on the recommendation from the Altus Recreation Advisory Committee to contract out the entire program out. The AHS Parents Booster Club (Wrestling Association) was to be given $3,000 to start the process to conduct a local wrestling tournament.
The Council voted to approve a lease with Lynne C. Collingwood, doing business as Dusty Covers Bookstore for the old City Library building, owned by the City of Altus, located at 211 East Broadway, for the purpose of housing a retail book store, media center and coffee shop business. The Council approved a lease price of $500.00 per month for four years and the fifth year, at $600.00 per month. The first lease payment due December 1; and Council authorized execution of the lease by the Mayor.
An additional item, 17a. had been added, but was no longer needed, regarding insurance.
There were no new business, or Mayor’s appointments items.
City Council member’s comments and reports included:
Scot Simco appreciates the efforts of the City employees and he’s glad that the Park Lane project is going forward.
Jack Smiley echoed Simco’s sentiments and said Simco pushed to get Park Lane done. He remarked that Colorado Springs is also money-deficit and has turned their recreation program over to the YMCA. Their revenues are down ten percent. Smiley said we’ll work this budget problem out in our own way, everyone giving up a little, like the take home vehicles. He said he knew Freddy and Phil deserved take home vehicles, but didn’t want to lose more revenue.
Perry Shelton said, “Thank you for the prayers. Keep praying for rain.” He quoted Mike Patterson in a little joke they have, that when we get rain the drought will end.
City Administrator Elizabeth Gray said her grandchildren have enjoyed visiting Altus. Her grandson said Altus is his favorite place in Oklahoma.
In Mayor Webb’s comments and reports he read a statement from Mary Wayne Moates. She thanked the City for the use of the pool for seniors to do water exercise. She complimented the pool staff and Council.
The meeting adjourned at 9:34 p.m.