Rick Henry’s comment on leaving the July 3 City Council meeting
“I went to the council meeting knowing it was a difficult and important meeting because as councilmen, setting the utility rates are the single most important thing we do. It is unfortunate such an important meeting came on basically a holiday. James Wilson has done a remarkable job with our budget for being here for such a short time. However, I believe he was working under incorrect mandates and assumptions from the council when talking about the fees part of our utility structure. He basically raised every fee and rate we have 11.3% to reach our 10% goal or increasing revenue by $1.7 million. This means some fees increased as little as 16 cents. Why even bother? Going up such a small amount on our fees means that our utility RATES had to go up much higher than I think they need to or should. Altus’ RATES are not really low compared to other towns in our region and for economic development purposes, we need to keep these in line with our competition. Passing the rate increase structure the way it was written would have crushed our already weakened economy. Bar-S would have been hit with an almost $400,000 increase this year alone! Knowing it was a short handed meeting, I thought I could talk council into setting the FEES that night and coming back later and adjusting the RATES accordingly. When I saw it wasn’t going to happen, it was very frustrating. I left because if I was gone there would be no quorum. I regret the way I walked out and muttered some things to myself that wasn’t intended for anyone to hear. Another councilman’s microphone picked up what was said. I regret having to leave the meeting and apologize for the the WAY I did it. I DO NOT regret shutting the meeting down so another approach of increasing the rates can be discussed. Nor do I apologize for being passionate about our city.”
The date for the July 3 Altus Municipal Authority (AMA) and City Council meetings was approved on Dec. 20, 2011. Despite that, holding a quorum for the pre-holiday meeting was a significant issue. Only four Council members were present until 6:30 p.m. They were Mike Patterson, Rick Steen, B.F. (Jr.) Rowland and Perry Shelton. To hold a meeting there had to be at least five of the eight trustees/council members. At 6:30 p.m., Rick Henry arrived and established the necessary number of members. Chad Osborne, Scot Simco and Jack Smiley were all absent. The meeting proceeded, but maintaining the quorum during the meeting was to be another thing.
During the AMA, the Consent Agenda was approved it in its entirety. Those items included: approval of minutes for the Altus Municipal Authority Meeting on June 19, and approval of purchase orders for FY 2011-2012 for the Enterprise Fund totaling $139,724.39,
The trustees approved Resolution No. 2012-23 authorizing and renewing a Lease Agreement with Southwest Readymix for property located in the Bar-S Industrial Park Addition, 820 South Veterans Drive for an annual rent of $1,073.00.
They also approved the City of Altus Chlorine Dioxide Contract Extension, Siemens Quote No. Q120316MFM1r1 at the increased price of $0.63 per liquid pound, through April 26, 2013, for use at the City’s Water Treatment Plant and authorized execution. This is a necessary chemical which helps reduce THMs, Bob Stephenson, Chief of Operations, said.
The trustees also approved a bid for duty uniforms, towels, dust mops and mat rental to Cintas Corporation of Lawton, Oklahoma.
They voted to award a bid to Techline, Inc., of Van Alstyne, Texas as best bid for two (2) 225 and one (1) KvA, 240 Delta, 3 Phase, Padmount Transformers. Total price for Bid #97003 is $27,609.00. This was not the lowest bid but the source with the fastest receipt of materials and the best products.
Trustees voted to authorize advertising for bids for contract services to perform “boring and trenching” for installation of electric and other utilities. Estimated cost of from $30,000 (thirty thousand dollars) - $45,000.This is not something that can be done in-house.
At this point in the meeting, the trustees were faced with a dilemma. They were being asked to approve whatever action might be taken in the City Council side on the proposed utility rate increases. Rather than not know the situation, the trustees approved recessing the AMA until after the City Council meeting’s adjournment. That adjournment never took place.
The City Council meeting began with the five council members present. Osborne, Simco and Smiley were absent.
The council members approved the Consent Agenda in its entirety. These items included: approval of minutes for the Special Public Hearing on May 29, approval of minutes for the Regular City Council Meeting on June 19, approval of purchase order for FY 2011-2012 for the General Fund totaling $45,128.78, for the Workers Comp Fund totaling $287.49, for the Economic Development Construction Fund totaling $7,403.60, for the Donation Fund totaling $55.00, for the Airport Fund totaling $6.25m approval of an Estimated payroll for July 5, 2012 as follows: Salaries - $344,726.00, Part Time Wages - $ 16,151.00, Overtime - $ 6,125.46, Incentive, License Pay - $ 7,174.00, Employer Paid Taxes - $ 25,176.00, Employee Paid Taxes - $ 61,531.00, Employer Paid Benefits - $122,257.00, Employee Paid Benefits - $ 53,738.29, Workers Comp - $ 14,338.00, for a total estimated amount of: $651,216.75; Payroll Figures for June 7 Prior Estimate and Actual figures: Salaries - $348,286.00, $350,492.63, Part Time Wages - $ 13,856.00, $ 14,718.10, Overtime - $ 6,125.46, $ 2,858.55, Incentive, License Pay - $ 7,243.00, $8,200.42, Employer Paid Taxes - $ 25,122.00, $23,722.93, Employee Paid Taxes - $ 68,721.15, $64,066.90, Employer Paid Benefits - $124,663.00, $125,509.30, Employee Paid Benefits - $ 54,767.24, $54,291.10, Workers Comp - $ 14,922.00, $17,419.50, for a total amount of: $663,705.85, $661,279.43, Percentage of Difference 0.37% lower than prior estimate; acknowledge monthly reports and minutes as follows: Main Street Altus and Southern Prairie Library System.
The council approved a companion piece from the AMA for duty uniforms, towels, dust mops and mat rental to Cintas Corporation of Lawton, Oklahoma.
Item five for the council was approval of an increase in contract water rates. These Special Contracts (water) of the Altus Code were approved for an increase from $2.80 to $3.00 per 1,000 gallons for six listed governmental utilities (Duke Municipal Trust Authority, Blair Public Works Authority, Olustee Public Works Authority, Creta Water Corporation, Jackson County Water Company, and Quartz Mountain Regional Water Authority); and change subsection (c) by increasing the rate from $1.75 to $2.01 per 1,000 gallons for Bar-S Foods Company, increasing the rate from $1.75 to $2.25 per 1,000 gallons for Altus Air Force Base; and negotiating $3.00 per 1,000 gallons for Balfour Beatty as to privatized portions of Altus Air Force Base, all effective with the September billing cycle; and 2) hire the Prime Group to do a water rate study for the City of Altus. The council members approved these increases.
During discussion on these water rates, Council member Rick Henry made a statement that representatives of these entities have approved the increases, but he noted that some of them may look elsewhere. He also stated that it is a misconception that the City is losing money on these contracts. He said it costs the same for one gallon of water as it does for 10,000 gallons, as far as paying for the water treatment plant goes. He said, “We need to sell as much as we can to pay for the infrastructure.”
Resolution No. 2012-24 was approved. It was the annual renewal between Altus Public Schools and the City of Altus for the MAPS for Altus projects. These annual renewals are to be approved on or about July 1 of each year until the term ends on June 30, 2021.
The council voted to approve Ordinance No. 2012-15 changing the definition of “Dilapidated Building” to reduce the time limit for a structure which has been boarded and secured from more than 36 consecutive months, to more than 18 consecutive months. The Altus Code now will match the state statutes.
The vote to acknowledge / approve a request from an employee, Roger Shaw, to receive a lump sum payment of retirement benefits was approved by council.
Resolution No. 2012-25 was approved. This amended Section 101 of the City’s Employees’ Policies and Procedures Manual by revising the list of employees that are considered Department Heads, deleting the Airport Director from the list; effective July 3. This position will now be designated as Airport Manager. This will be in line with FAA and industry standards, City Administrator Elizabeth Gray stated.
At this point in the meeting, the focus would turn to the across-the-board utility increases necessary to help fund the so-called “10/10” budget. The first increase to be considered was the garbage and trash pickup rates for all classifications.
Rick Henry asked James Wilson, City Finance Director, to consider the fees and rates to get the fees more in line. Henry expressed that he didn’t wish for Altus to project a poor image to those who would be considering moving here.
Mayor David Webb responded,”These increases are what’s needed for the budget.”
Council member Mike Patterson stated that the council had asked Wilson to come up with the necessary rate increases to fund the 10/10 budget and that was what was on the agenda. Perry Shelton asked if these increases could be approved and other refinements could be made later. Henry replied that once fees go up, they seldom come down.
Discussion ensued regarding the revenues needed to operate the City. Wilson was asked if the matter could be brought back at the next meeting. Wilson explained that the funds are needed currently and without them, it costs the City $100,000 every two weeks in lost revenues. He said he’d need an amended budget document according to the state statutes for every two weeks until this is solved.
Motions were received on the item and during the voting Henry abruptly walked out of the meeting (See Rick Henry’s comment). His leaving meant that there was no quorum. The item and all the other increases for landfill rates, water, sewer, and electricity would not be considered and the revenues lost. The meeting could not even adjourn without a quorum and the AMA meeting, which had just been recessed, was not adjourned either.
Members of the public left, after it appeared the meeting was totally over. Henry did return later and there was some brief discussion that possibly the meeting could be resumed. Concerns for complying with the Open Meeting Act, since the public had left, stopped possible efforts to resume the meeting. A Special Meeting may be planned before the next scheduled AMA/Council meeting, July 17.