The Altus Municipal Authority (AMA) and City Council met on Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 6:30 p.m. Member Rick Steen was a few minutes late, but all members were present when they received a presentation and update from Drake Rice of OMPA on the 2013 Rate Services Study.
Rice said that OMPA rates will be up by 1.22 percent due to cost increases for transmission lines in the Southwest Power Pool. Rice said that 30 percent of OMPA power sources will now be from renewable sources: wind, hydroelectric and methane. Additional sources are an environmentally friendly coal power plant in Arkansas and a gas-powered generation plant.
Rice said Altus citizens may receive a survey call regarding electric power from OMPA.
The trustees approved the Consent Agenda minus one error brought to the collective attention by Trustee Perry Shelton. The agenda included: approval of minutes for the Altus Municipal Authority Meeting on November 6; Old Budget: approve purchase orders for FY 2011-2012 for the Enterprise Fund totaling $12,214.26; New Budget: approve purchase orders for FY 2012-2013 for the Enterprise Fund totaling (here is the correction.) The amount said $119,150.97 One number had been lost. It should have read: $1,119,150.97.
Next, the trustees received the monthly financial report from James Wilson, Finance Director. Wilson presented information about many good indicators for the City of Altus. The revenues are up, and the expenditures are down. With 33.3 percent of the fiscal year elapsed, the General Fund has used 32 percent of funding and the Enterprise Fund (AMA) has used 30 percent. The expenditures to revenue ratio is good so far. But despite all these good indicators, Wilson said it’s “definitely not time to go on a spending spree.” Trustee Rick Henry asked for sales tax revenues figures. Wilson said he’d get those figures for the trustees.
AMA items 6, 7 and 8a were presented by Electrical Superintendent Dan Scott. Items 6 and 8 were approved for transformers and 8a for negotiations with Planter’s Coop over a line extension for new grain elevators. Item 7 was tabled regarding a pole trailer since Federal regulations on trailer length has recently changed.
After a presentation by Bob Stephenson, the trustees approved staff preparation of documents for a finance package to submit to The Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) for three water infrastructure projects: the SE Wastewater treatment plant, a waste water lift station and a portion of the Veterans Drive waterline.
There was no new business and the AMA adjourned at 7:31 p.m.
With all members present, the City Council meeting began with a presentation by Illando Sawyer of the newest Habitat for Humanity house. Upon completion, Pedrick Shivers and Kathryn Miller and their five children will own the home.
In Comments from the audience section, Emergency Management Director Lloyd Colston announced that there will be a special presentation on drought at Southwest Technology Center, 711 W. Tamarack, on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 7 p.m..
With one item excluded by Shelton, the Council approved the Consent Agenda including: approval of the minutes for the Regular City Council Meeting on November 6; Old Budget: approval of purchase orders for FY 2011-2012 for the General Fund totaling $2,469.00; New Budget: approval of purchase orders for FY 2012-2013 for the General Fund totaling $153,578.29, for the Workers Comp Fund totaling $10,285.29, for the Airport Fund totaling $5,070.08, for the Hotel/Motel Tax Fund totaling $76,532.88, for the Emergency 911 Fund totaling $427.00; consider approving an ESTIMATED payroll for November 21 2012 as follows: Salaries - $312,070.00, Part Time Wages - $ 9,956.00, Overtime - $ 7,415.38, Contractual OT - $ 0.00, Incentive, License Pay - $ 6,000.00, Employer Paid Taxes - $ 22,595.00, Employee Paid Taxes - $ 65,534.70, Employer Paid Benefits - $110,334.00, Employee Paid Benefits - $ 49,931.20, Workers Comp - $ 42,629.00, for a total estimated amount of$626,465.28; Payroll figures for October 25. 2012: Prior Estimate/ Actual: Salaries - $307,979.00 /$311,102.94, Part Time Wages - $ 12,030.00/ $ 8,378.91, Overtime - $ 7,415.46 /$8,821.17, Contractual Overtime - $ 0.00/$ 0.00, Incentive, License Pay - $ 6,000.00 /$6,052.22, Employer Paid Taxes - $ 22,541.00 /$21,025.46, Employee Paid Taxes - $ 64,675.59 /$59,002.90, Employer Paid Benefits - $110,358.00 /$117,360.52, Employee Paid Benefits - $ 49,276.64 /$48,741.19, Workers Comp - $ 13,117.00 /$289,200.00, for a total amount of: $593,392.69 /$869,685.31 Percentage of Difference 31.8 higher than prior estimate; acknowledge monthly reports and minutes as follows: American Red Cross, CableOne, Fleet Maintenance Fuel Report.
The item excluded was the payroll, with a large Workers Comp amount. Wilson explained that this was a one-time catch-up on Workers Comp. That item was also approved.
In item 6, Wilson presented information on the transfer of hiring freeze savings back to reserve funds. This is slightly more than $200,000. At this rate, it will take 2.5 years to save the $1.3 million for the emergency reserves. Item 7 was blended into 6 for the status of hiring freeze and current unfilled/budgeted positions and discussing future strategy of hiring freeze procedure.
There are 14 budgeted vacancies, with the addition of two more added at the meeting. The Assistant Chief of Police, Mike Turner, is retiring and an E911 person is leaving. At this portion of the meeting department supervisors came forward to explain how the hiring freeze impacted their respective departments.
Especially affected by the freeze has been the Utility Department with the recent use of estimations on utility bills. With only two full-time and two part-time meter readers, they need five full-time and one part-time meter readers. To demonstrate this, Janice Berryhill, Utility Manager, said that in October 2011, there were 142 check reads on meters. This October, there were 1,208 check reads. They are working late at night to try to catch up. Customers are yelling at Utility clerks and “Our credibility is gone,” Berryhill said. “This has had a domino effect,” she added. “We can’t even get billing out.” She is concerned about her employees’ safety and that they have been working until 11 p.m.
Street Commissioner Holmes Willis lost four positions in the last few months, with nine total in the last two years. “All departments wanted to help with the financial crisis,” Willis said, “so we gave up people. Now we don’t have enough people to prepare for winter. We’re so far behind on our street repairs.” Willis explained that street de-icing must be done between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. That may be hard to contract out those services as many don’t want that duty, going over the streets two to three times to get the job done before the morning commuters. ODOT uses salt and other areas have car washes that will wash under the vehicles. Altus doesn’t have those kind of car washes.
Dan Scott said the RIF took a whole construction crew from the Electric Department. Using contractors is going through money fast, $40,000 this week. “We have to do this in-house,” Scott explained. They’re down eight positions this year in the Electrical Department.
The Fleet Maintenance Supervisor said his department is down from eight to three,a nd that it’s a struggle to keep all the City’s vehicles going.
Freddie Perez, Parks and Rec., Cemetery, and Grounds Maintenance, has lost two part-time workers despite increasing many duties. There are two open budgeted positions for the Parks Department.
Steve Perry, Water/Wastewater Maintenance Superintendent has lost three. His team has to be on emergency call to be there to help people. “At this point,” he said, “they’re forced to just patch up things because they have so little time. Seventy percent of the water meters are at least 20 years old or more.”
Mayor Webb said the City needs a strategy. He asked if the Council wants to keep the hiring freeze.
City Administrator Elizabeth Gray said, “We’re in a tight spot. We’re on track with savings, so the money’s not there. If we keep putting money in the reserve fund…We’re still on the brink of being broke.”
Jack Smiley asked Wilson how much money is in the reserve account. Wilson said one-half million a dollars. Jack asked, “You said we needed $10 million in reserves. The Enterprise Fund is upside down, owing $2.2 million. If the AMA could pay the money pack, we could hire 20 more people. To go without the employees is hard on the (existing) employees. To go with the reserves is hard on the citizens.”
Rick Henry said “We have to grow into our government. We’re too small for our government.”
The discussion continued for a long time. They explored how Altus has a high ratio of City employees per capita, that not all cities provide so many services for their citizens. Now Altus is trying to continue providing the same services without the same support staff. Some services can be contracted out, some can’t be contracted efficiently.
Rick Henry said that he was offended by the feeling that Council was being blamed for the elimination of City employees. He said they did not make the determination of which positions stayed and which went away.
Mayor Webb said it was not his intent to blame Council but to involve them now in the solution. “Speak up and be part of the solution,” he said.
Perry Shelton suggested maybe they shouldn’t replace the Assistant Chief of Police.
Chief Tim Murphy said “That’s easier said than done. It’s a critical position. I have duties inside and outside the department.”
Chad Osborne said, “We had zero authority on who stayed and who went. We had no authority. Now we have authority to say who stays?”
Gray said, “In terms of the RIF, we followed the RIF procedures.”
Smiley pointed out that Council’s responsibility is to present a balanced budget. He said he’s surprised Mayor Webb didn’t ask for a recount when he saw the coffers were empty. “Everyone has legitimate requests. I can’t make money out of thin air.”
Mike Patterson said for 17 years he’d received reports but had no clue that those bank balances were wrong. He was embarrassed finding out the truth.
Next, was a companion item to the AMA water projects financing. This was approved
Bob Stephenson gave a briefing on water sources, with more information coming after the Nov. 26 meeting with the Bureau of Reclamation. Tom Steed Reservoir is indeed 38 percent capacity, as Rick Henry said at the last meeting. The Mountain Park Water Conservancy District will come up with policies on water conservation guidelines for member cities. Stephenson will brief the Council of those guidelines. The city can make its own policies. Scot Simco said he’d be willing to sign a resolution on water conservation. If there is no substantial rain, it is estimated that Tom Steed has three to four years of water left for its members. They must find contingencies.
The Council approved a staffing agreement with Express Employment Professionals and authorized signing of the Agreement.
Council discussed the recommendation from the Altus/Southwest Area Economic Development Corporation (EDC) that the current position of Business Development Director be deleted, and the current funding for said position be transferred to the EDC.
In the last major item of the evening, the Council reviewed and discussed possible changes to the Altus City government. Smiley said it was his fault the item was placed on the amended agenda. He’d forgotten to get with City Attorney Catherine Coke on the matter. The Council was united in the facts that the Aldermanic government has limited Altus. Ours is the largest city in Oklahoma with that form of government. Henry explained that it would be possible to vote for and write a charter and not disturb any elected positions. Council could serve out their terms and Altus could get on with more growth. The Charter form of government is explained under the Oklahoma State Statutes (11 O.S.A. § 13-102 ). The Council approved this item. Coke said that this would take at least six or seven months, if it’s like last time (1996). One part of the process may be presented in the April election and one part possibly in August.
There was no new business or Mayor’s appointments.
City Administrator Elizabeth Gray’s comments and reports included complimenting the staff on the Christmas in the Park, or as Smiley said, “Christmas in the Park Light”. Lillian Rodriquez flipped the switch to light the park lights on Monday night. She did a great job.
City Council member’s comments and reports included:
Jack Smiley reminded staff of the Council Christmas Party on Dec. 13. He also thanked James Wilson for his hard work.
Scot Simco said he was glad we did the Christmas in the Park. It looks better and he’ll gladly donate some light bulbs and put them in. Freddie Perez said he’d take him up on that.
B.F. Jr. Rowland said he appreciated the efforts of the employees for Christmas in the Park. He knows we’re running on short staff and everyone’s working hard. It’s appreciated.
Rick Henry asked about a copy of the old charter. He was referred to the Election Board. He said that Altus Christmas in the Park is in the Oklahoma Magazine. He said despite the national election not going the way 70 percent of the state wished, Oklahoma is leading the way for the nation in job creation; it’s number five in the nation. Just as Oklahoma is a light for the country, Altus can be a light for the state with the Sikorsky project and other good things happening here. He also said thanks for Christmas in the Park.
Rick Steen wished all the employees a Happy Thanksgiving.
Mike Patterson said just days before the ice storm, our biggest disaster, he had surgery. “The Assistant Chief of Police ran everything. Trust me,” Patterson said, “you need one.”
In the Mayor’s comments and reports, he said he and Rick Henry enjoyed seeing Fiddler on the Roof at Altus High School. They did an outstanding job. He encouraged all to schedule it in to the calendar for the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving every year.
The Council meeting adjourned at 9:34 p.m.