March 28, 2008

Last Night’s Special Joint Meeting

Posted in Council Meetings at 1:17 am by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

The City Hall, Library, Police Station discussion will be covered under a seperate post. 

Property Insurance Renewal

After the last city council meeting Mr. Gulbranson did more research on the Workman’s Compensation increases for the Fire/Rescue personnel that had changed so drastically from the previous year.  As the result of his research he was able to re-adjust the Workman’s Compensation classifications by splitting apart the Fire and Rescue into separate categories.  The result of the change allowed the city to save approximately $7k in Workman’s Compensation premiums.  The council voted to approve the reduced premiums.

Rescue Unit Employment Agreement

Mr. Bump provided the council with a draft copy of the new employment agreement to review.  The Rescue Board was given a copy to review also.  The agreement is generic enough that it may be used for all rescue unit hiring and allows for the job title and job description to be inserted into the contract.  The council will discuss the agreement at the next regular council meeting.

The council approved the hiring of Mr. Jeff Howard as a full time paramedic.

Old and New Business

Mr. Aldrich provided a quick update on on-going city projects. 

The trail contractor is prepping the surrounding ground to be ready for seeding when the weather gets better. 

 Mr. Aldrich and Bob have been putting together a cleanup list of things that still need to be done on N. Division Street.  The list includes the ponding at 3rd and 4th, a sidewalk that was left out and some settlement issues.  Mr. Waddell asked about the ponding issues.  Mr. Aldrich stated that the contractor must evaluate the problem and propose a solution.  At that point he would evaluate the proposed solution and make a recommendation to the council on whether to accept the solution or not.  The cheapest way is to grind the street but normally grinding is only done to a depth of 1/4 inch.  If deeper changes are required then panels will need to be replaced. 

The Waste Water Treatment Facility Site Survey is on-going.  The waivers have been signed by the surrounding property owners.

Assessments on the N. Division Street are coming up.  They will begin figuring the costs and start the process of making the assessments to meet the mandated deadlines.

The curb issue was readdressed and Mr. Aldrich pointed out that it was a political decision not a engineering decision.  If the council decides that they want the curb put back the way it was before they can do it but that changing it back will risk the integrity of the curb in the out years because of the cuts that would need to be made.  The concern pointed out by Mr. Sherman was where is the property line because until that is found there is not way to clearly determine placement.  The council also acknowledged that the driveway entrance in question is on city right-of-way and was constructed in a standard acceptable manner.  No decisions were made on the issue.

Mr. Crawford informed the council that a local group has proposed putting two rest areas around the walking trail that consist of a covered bench and some landscaping with mulch and bushes.  The project costs about $6k.  The group has applied for a $3k grant and the remainder will be funded by local donations.  They have requested that the city provide the cement to set the benches on like was done in the park.  Mr. O’Keeffe asked if the group was going to maintain the rest areas.  Mr. Crawford stated that they would.  The council agreed with the project.

The council approved the Dollars For Scholars collection efforts on April 12th at the corner of Division and Front Streets.

Mr. Sherman asked Bob to put together a list and cost of fixing all the street problem areas that have popped up now that the ground is unfreezing.  Bob also pointed out that N. Harlen must be fixed this year unless the council wants to put it back to gravel.  The council did not concede to the change to gravel.  Mr. Sherman stated that he needed to get the list started and just add to it as new areas appear. 


March 27, 2008

Agenda, Special Joint Meeting

Posted in Agenda at 8:58 am by thevoicesofstuart

City Council and Utilities Board

Here is the Agenda for the Special Joint Meeting tonight.

Agenda, Special Joint Meeting

March 25, 2008

WCV Bond Issue Passes

Posted in City News at 12:00 am by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

As of 8:37 pm tonight Issues A and B Passed.  Issue C failed to meet the 50% needed to pass.

To see the overall results go here.

To see the precinct results go here.

March 24, 2008

Shootout At The WCV Corral

Posted in City News at 12:00 am by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

All the lines have been drawn in the sand.  All the different camps have gathered their forces.  And all the teeth gnashing is just about over on determining what the outcome will be for the WCV Bond Issue scheduled for voting tomorrow.

From everything I have heard it will be more of a fight to the death over whether WCV goes to a one elementary school district or remains a two elementary school district then whether there is a need for a new high school or not. 

One camp supports the NO-NO-YES position which says that there is no need for a new high school but want to see a one elementary school district.  Even realizing that without the passage of A and B there is no option for C to come into play they are making a statement.

One camp supports the YES-YES-NO position which backs a new high school east of town and a two elementary school district by converting the old high school into an elementary school.

And one camp that supports a YES-YES-YES position which backs a new high school east of town and a one elementary school district by expanding the existing Dexter elementary facilities. 

All positions backed by vocal and impassioned supporters vying to influence tomorrow’s outcome.  Some with phone calls.  Some with radio ads.  Some with newspaper ads.  Some with talking to their friends and neighbors.

It will all come down to the numbers tomorrow.  Which group gets the most people to the voting booth before closing time.

Voting starts at 7 am and closes at 8 pm.

The Polling Places are:

Redfield – City Hall

Dexter – City Hall

Menlo – Community Building

Stuart – First Congregational Church

Hopefully tomorrow’s vote will put an end to this chapter of WCV history.


March 17, 2008

Feeling Optimistic About The School Bond Referendum

Posted in City News at 12:00 am by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter 

In the past I usually just avoided this issue entirely.  I could never get anyone to speak to the specific issues of contention without tons of emotional baggage.  So much so that it made my “ears bleed” just reading the posts.  My intent for this post is to ignore all the old baggage that surrounds the issue and go directly to my thoughts on the current bond propositions as presented to the public for voting on March 25th.

What I find heartening at this point is that there are no bond busters at work.  Many of the people who actively fought against the previous bonds are actively supporting this version and that the real arguments going on now are about how to vote the propositions. 

In order to understand exactly what is being presented in this version it is in every ones interest to be familiar with the language of the bond and what it really means.  Here is a copy of the bond language directly from the Dallas County Auditors Website.  Another excellent reference is the yellow flier from RAMBO that was being distributed door-to-door this weekend.  It explains each proposition and what it means as you vote each proposition.

After looking over all this information, reading the comments posted on the Good Egg Gazette and speaking with several people who actively worked against the previous bond I see that there is considerable room for optimism that the bond will pass this time.  What is up for grabs is the determination of placement for the elementary school changes needed. 

I also see that there are many people who do not understand the propositions and are proposing a NO-NO-YES voting posture.  Voting this posture will not accomplish what they think it will.  It will only serve to fail the entire bond if enough people vote this way.

So let’s look at the issue a step at a time and see if some of the misunderstandings can be cleared up.  The following are from all the published sources I have found to date and simplified to cut everything down to its barest elements.

Proposition A Asks:  Do you want a new High School and do you want to fix up an existing building for Elementary Facilities?  

A YES vote means that a new high school will be constructed east of Stuart, that the old high school will be re-modeled into an elementary school.  This also means that you support a two elementary school district.

A NO vote means that you do not support making any changes to the current school facilities.

Proposition B Asks:  Do you support a limit on the annual tax levy of between $2.70 and $4.05 per thousand to fund the measure.  This restricts the amount of bonds to be issued but “does not” restrict the payment source for the bonds leaving the path open to use local sales tax revenue as called for by the resolution calling for the election.

A YES vote means that you wish to restrict the amount of the bonds issued and that you do not want to limit the source of the bond payments to only a property tax levy.

A NO vote means that you do not support funding this bond issue.

______________________Important To Understand______________________ 

Before going on to Proposition C you must understand that Proposition A and B must pass for C to be a viable option. 

In other words there is no option for just voting for a consolidated elementary without approving the new high school.  Anyone voting NO-NO-YES is actually voting NO-NO-NO.  Without A and B there is no C.


Proposition C Asks:  Do you support additional funding not to exceed $.50 per thousand to locate all elementary facilities in Dexter?

A Yes vote means that you support a consolidated elementary school in Dexter for the district and that you support an additional $.50 per thousand property tax levy for 10 years to fund the facilities changes needed to consolidate the elementary school. 

A No vote means that you support a two elementary school district with the old high school being converted to an elementary school.

So there it is.  Now you have to decide how you wish to vote.

Another thing I have heard comments on is that there is no mention in the bond wording that indicates the use of local sales tax to help in the loan payments.  There is a reason for that.  The Bond Resolution calling for the election directs that local sales taxes be used to reduce the property tax levy on the bonds.  If the bond was worded to use local sales tax to fund the project a different type of bond is required.  Revenue Bonds were an option that was looked into but decided against because they have some serious disadvantages to a general obligation bond.  The biggest being the substantially higher interest rates over the life of the bond.  By wording the bond to use general obligation bonds and not restricting the source of payment leaves the option open to use available local sales tax revenue money each year without incurring the higher interest rates.  In other words each year as the local sales tax numbers become available the district can then subtract that amount from the debt payment and then apportion to the property tax levy only the remainder of the annual debt payment.  You really do not want to see a revenue bond as the funding source.  Any year that the revenue is not enough to cover the payments additional money must be secured to cover the payments at the higher interest rate.  In those situations you end up paying for the cost of the amount needed to cover the payment but an additional interest rate on top of the already higher revenue bond rate.  Not a good plan at all.  Just because it is not in the wording does not mean that it will not be used.  Even in the worst case scenario and no sales tax revenue is available the maximum that will be assessed is $4.05 per thousand.  Another thing to keep in mind is that the financial planners who put this together have probably been very conservative in the estimation of the available sales tax revenue. 

Now that my brain is tired of thinking all this through I guess I should just answer the question about what I think about all this.  For me it boils down to:

Do they have a solid, workable plan that covers the facility needs of the district?  Yes

Have they done everything possible to structure the debt to incur the lowest cost?  Yes

Do we really need a new high school?  Yes

Do we really need two elementary schools in the district?  This is harder and I have not made my mind up yet.  It will probably boil down to what is cheaper and easier to do? Maintain one elementary building or two.  Although it should at least be mentioned here that if the vote passes for a consolidated elementary there is a very high probability that the old high school will be given to the city.  If that happens it will save a lot of money in not having to build a new city hall, library and police station.  The cost of tearing down the old west wing will be about a third of what new construction would cost.  It also would allow for the city to consolidate all its offices to one location with room to spare for the future.  Just something to think about while you ponder your decision.          

March 12, 2008

New And Old Business

Posted in Council Meetings at 2:08 pm by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

The Mayor received a request from Jerry Vintzhum to declare April 26th Kenny Vanlandingham Day.  The council approved a motion to so name the day.

Audrey Wells on behalf of the White Pole Road Committee has requested that the city designate a city-wide clean-up day before this years activities.  After a brief discussion the council decided to do some checking with other towns who do this and see what is involved and how much it costs.

Mr. O’Keeffe had received questions on the condition of N. Gaines Street and inquired when and who is paying for the repair.  Mr. Aldrich informed the council that part of the cost will be covered by the liquidated damages from the N. Division Street Contract and the remainder of the cost is included in this years street projects.

Mr. Waddell asked how many people were in the Street Department and why is the part-time help working more of the year than just the summertime.  Mr. Ashour assured him that the department was inside budget.  Mr. Waddell then stated that whether they were in budget or not was not the question.   If part-time personnel were working more hours and other things were not getting done because there was not enough money it was a problem.  Mr. Ashour stated that he would look into it.

Mr. Sherman informed the council that Mr. Anderson informed him of a street problem that has not been resolved in 5 years.  Mr. Ashour informed the council that Mr. Airhart was going to look at it and see what can be done.  The Mayor stated that Mr. Airhart  should have communicated that to Mr. Anderson.  Mr. Sherman then questioned why if this problem has been going on this long why have they not heard about it before.  He further stated that Mr. Anderson feels like he is being ignored that that should not happen.  Apparently the water runoff from the street is pooling in his yard.  Mr. Sherman then pointed out that it was not productive for them to discuss this without Mr. Airhart being there it explain the situation.  The council them discussed the need for Mr. Airhart to attend the council meetings to be able to answer questions.  It was determined that the Street Superintendent and the Police Department will attend all council meetings.

The Mayor asked the council if they would allow Mr. Westre to set up an email address on the city website that would allow people to email directly to council members.  The email would then be forwarded to the council members home emails without giving out personal addresses.  The council did not see a problem with that but also wanted something on there that stated if a problem needed immediate attention they should be called.


Changes At The Rescue Unit

Posted in Council Meetings at 1:13 pm by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

Mr. Vanlandingham introduced Jeff Howard as the new full time paramedic and requested that the council approve the hire.  After some discussion on residency requirements the council deferred the hire approval until the March 27th special meeting.  Mr. Howard will remain at his current status until them when it will change to a full time position.

As of July 1st Mr. Howard will assume the Rescue Unit Director position and the City will hire a second full time paramedic.  The Rescue Board and council have incorporated the second position into the 08/09 budget to accommodate the changes.

Mr. Vanlandingham informed the council that he will be available to answer questions and train Mr. Howard until the end of April but he was not able to go on calls anymore making it necessary to move forward their plans to bring on the second full time paramedic.

For those of you who have not heard Mr. Vanlandingham was recently diagnosed with ALS commonly known as Lew Gehrig’s Disease.  Mr. Vanlandingham will transition into long term disability care provided through the city’s health care plan.

City Hall, Library and Police Building Update 2

Posted in Council Meetings at 12:27 pm by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

At the last council meeting Mr. Aldrich was asked to see if the new building would fit on the existing library site.  After studying the space he determined that it could be accommodated with the removal of the west water storage tank.  This would allow the city hall to remain standing during construction.  The plan allows for “nose in” parking in front of the building.  If the city decided to not remove the water storage tank the site will still accommodate the building but the city would need to make arrangements to re-house the all the city offices for construction and have the plans redrawn to fit the space.

When asked by Mr. Belden about future expansion Mr. Aldrich explained that the room was there to the east where the current city hall sits.

When asked about the $1.5 m cost Mr. Aldrich pointed out that the cost was for construction and did NOT include architectural fees or fixture and furnishings cost.

There was some discussion of the removal of the water storage tank and it was decided that they needed to get with the utility board to evaluate the situation.  

Mr. Bump then brought up the time-line for scheduling a bond election.  Based on the time requirements and the need for the bond attorney to write the ballot the council is looking at a July date.

A special meeting was set for March 27th at 6:30 pm to see if they can get the numbers buttoned down on all the different projects.

Aquatic Center Update

Posted in Council Meetings at 11:39 am by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

The updated numbers for the cost of the Aquatic Center now stands at approximately $1.7 M to complete the project.  Mr. Aldrich updated the council on the different options for bidding the contract.  The primary focus is that even if all the add-ons were not done initially all the plumbing for them is done and available for future use. 

Mr. Aldrich then outlined a schedule for the council which identified a completion date of June 2010.  He stressed that the council needed to be aware of the tightness of the process.  He also pointed out that he realized that it was hard for the council to decide to obligate money without having funding in place.

Mr. Waddell then asked for a recap of the current funds pledged for the project which is $175 k and the USDA $300 k zero percent loan. 

The Committee asked for permission to apply for a $75k DNR grant and the resolution was passed.

The council still needs to decide if they are going forward with a resolution for a bond election for the project.   

Police Department Report

Posted in Council Meetings at 11:16 am by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

On Saturday, April 26th, there is a benefit scheduled for Kenny Vanlandingham.  There is going to be a Hog Roast, Auction, Live Entertainment and a least one helicopter landing.  Robert recommended to the council that Front Street be closed for just the one block in front of the firehouse.  The detour will just be around the block to the north for one day.  The council saw no problems with the detour.

Robert was notified by Bob Kemp from the Guthrie/Adair Emergency Management that a full scale emergency management exercise is being planned for May and had requested that Stuart host the exercise.  As the event gets closer the public will be informed about what areas of town will be effected.

On the Election Front Sgt. Hrubetz will be taking 2 weeks leave and 2 weeks leave without pay the month before the primary election.  Mr. Sherman asked if this will cause the department to go into a overtime situation.  Robert responded that no he did not think so.  That they will be able to cover it using other options. 

38 Sidewalks recieved warnings including one for the city which was fixed quickly.  25 received door hangers and were cleaned by the contractor. 

28 sites have been identified to have a accumulation of junk and/or junk vehicles.  The list was sent to the city for notification of ordinance violations.  A certified letter will be sent with the property owners outlining the violation and the comply by dates.  Pictures have been taken of all the sites and are on file at city hall.  The police are putting together a municipal infractions manual for each officer to carry in their vehicle so home owners may be shown the exact ordinance if they have questions.  Here is the ordinance if you are interested.  chapter-051junk.doc


City Property Insurance Renewed

Posted in Council Meetings at 10:28 am by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

Mr. Gulbranson presented the Council with the renewal information on the City Property Insurance Policy.

The good news was that most of the items moved down in premium costs.  The bad news was that the Workmen Compensation costs moved up.  Mr. Gulbranson explained that the rates for Workmen Compensation are set by a national rating bureau for each state.  Under the previous policies there was a classification for volunteer firefighters, ambulance drivers and EMT’s at a rate of about $5. per hundred of payroll.  This year that classification was no longer available and all had to be placed in one category with a rate of just under $21. per hundred of payroll.

Another increase came from the updated equipment inventory so that the policy reflects the appropriate costs for replacement in case of loss.

All the rate changes represented a 14% rate increase in the policy.

Mr. Waddell asked if a comparison had been done between other cities our size and other carriers to see if what we are paying is in line.  Mr. Gulbranson answered no because of the degree of difficulty to get an actual comparison.  Some towns work out of one building and some have more than we have.  He also reiterated that the one big change was largely the rate classification change for the Workmen Compensation Coverage.  He went on to explain that there are other programs out there but that they are more of a “Pool Plan” type of arrangement and not a regular insurance plan.  This type of plan is not as beneficial as a regular policy because by being grouped in the “pool” all losses and changes are spread across the “pool”.  He further stated that these pools are comprised of multiple different types of activities such as sheriff offices who run jails, waste management centers etc. 

The council then approved the policy which takes effect April 1st.

March City Council Meeting

Posted in Council Meetings at 9:30 am by thevoicesofstuart

By Peggy Schlichter

Here is a recap of the council meeting Monday night for those topics that do not require a separate post.

For all you race fans Stuart Speedway got their beer permit renewed.

Both Resolutions for the Community Cultural Center were passed bring the $1.8 M Grant closer to completion.

Stephanie Marks presented a recommendation to the Council to rename the Soccer Complex in memory of Sarah Wolfe.  After the council determined that the family and Board had no objections they approved the name change.

MidWest Partnership was unable to attend the meeting.  They are now rescheduled for April.

The 08/09 City Budget was approved.

Payment #5 for the Bathhouse Project was approved for the amount of $6,609.50.

March 7, 2008

Agenda, March City Council Meeting

Posted in Agenda at 5:04 pm by thevoicesofstuart

Here is the Agenda for the March City Council Meeting.

March Agenda