April 16, 2008
By Peggy Schlichter
I have a confession to make. I have known about the completed Audit Report since March 30th and purposely did not publish the information at that time. After reading the findings and discussing them with the State Auditors Office I decided to withhold my knowledge until after the report was presented to the council. In the interest of fair play I felt that it was important to see how the findings would be presented to the council and their honest reaction to the report before I made any comments. I did not want to influence the city’s presentation in any way. They had 20 days to decide how they would present the results. That is why the previous post is presented that way.
Based on the comments made at the council meeting by Messieurs Belden and Crawford the first impression I got was that they thought the State took a lot of pages to have so few findings and that they were not reportable. This made me wonder because it indicated that they were only looking at the 3 findings listed under Findings Related to the Financial Statements. Go to page 43 and 44 of the on-line report here. (This link opens in another window to make it easier to follow along.) This also makes me wonder if the report copies given to the council members have a total of 48 pages that make up the printed report.
If you read on through pages 45 to 49 of the on-line report you find 17 more reportable findings under the heading of Other Findings Related to Required Statutory Reporting. Of those 17 reportable findings 3 recommend that the city seek legal counsel to resolve.
By far the most egregious was Finding 11 on page 47 of the on-line report which identifies 3 TIF problems. One relating to an error in the way TIF funds are computed, one relating to certification documentation errors and one identifies the use of TIF to pay for the trail project without the required statutory indebtedness. The City’s response did not appear to satisfy the auditors as they re-enforced the finding with further statutory points. Conversations with the State Auditors Office and their final conclusion on this finding is that the $106,740. of TIF money the city used to pay for the trail with must be paid back and legal council consulted to determine and ensure that the appropriate indebtedness is established.
Based on this finding one has to wonder about several things. Did the zeal and vigor in which several council members were pursuing this project place an undue pressure on a public servant to bend the rules to make something happen? Did the public servant do this to curry favor from elected officials? How could the council members at the meeting Monday night not know of the other 17 findings nor have any questions about them?
Finding 12 on page 48 of the on-line report relates to two bank loans for the purchase of a new police car and a pickup truck for the sewer department without the proper following of Iowa Code to enter into the indebtedness. The City now must determine if it is legal to appropriate any funds for these debts and make any payments on the debt. Conversations with the Auditors Office clarified that the risk associated with this finding is for the bank that holds the notes on the debt. While it is unwise for the city to not make the debt payments until the legality of determining the authority to appropriate funds is made the city is at risk for having to re-pay appropriated (debt levied) funds.
Finding 13 also on page 48 of the on-line report relates to payments to an elected city officer for duties other than elected for in violation of Iowa Code. The city paid a former council member for performing zoning administrator duties for the 2006 and 2007 calendar years. It is recommended that the city consult legal counsel on this issue.
The other 14 findings relate to all manner of city business and record keeping that require the city to adjust their practices and procedures.
At this point the only thing I have is more questions:
Where will the funds come from to pay back the trail money?
Did the council just fail to read all the findings?
Does the council know the full extent of the problems raised in the report?
How will we know that the problems really get fixed if the council does not know about them?
Was the report falsified? If so, by who?
Was this an attempt to hide the problems from some or all of the council or did some of the council know about all the findings and others not?
Unfortunately I do not have the answers to these questions but they needed to be asked. You read the post and the report and see if you come to the same conclusions. Then let’s see what the mayor and council decide to do about it.
By Peggy Schlichter
Here is the council conversation almost verbatim covering the acceptance of the Auditor’s Report presented to the council.
The Mayor announced Agenda Item 12.
Mr. Ashour – Are there were any questions on the report.
Mr. Waddell – Are you addressing the deficiencies.
Mr. Ashour – Already addressed.
Mr. Waddell – Already addressed?
Mr. Ashour – Yes.
Mr. Waddell – I understand that especially in a small office you can only segregate duties so much.
Mr. Crawford – It should be noted that instances of non-compliance noted were not reportable.
Mr. Belden – This is an Auditor of State Audit and the overall results of what is compliant and not compliant, there are a lot of pages to say that.
The Mayor – Good job.
Mr. Ashour asked for a motion to accept the Audit Report.
A motion was made and passed to accept the Audit Report.
All in all a slick little cover-up of the actual findings.
Up next…… what the Audit Report actually says.
By Peggy Schlichter
Mr. Waddell was informed by a citizen then brought to the council attention that the police are not allowed to use the Street Department power washer to clean their police cars. As a result the police have an account at the car wash. Mr. Waddell thought that was unnecessary and wasteful to spend money on car washes when the city had the equipment to take care of its own vehicles. Mr. Ashour was told look into this.
Mr. O’Keeffe raised citizen complaints that the street sweeper is only being used in certain areas and not others that need definite cleaning. He was informed that the street sweeper is only used on curb and gutter streets. Mr. O’Keeffe then pointed out that there are curb and gutter streets that have considerable amounts of debris that need to be cleaned. The mayor asked if they needed to make a policy on street cleaning. Mr. Sherman countered with why do we need to make a policy to tell someone to use a piece of equipment. Mr. Ashour then stated that he would talk to the street department. The mayor asked him is he was going to crack the whip. At which point everyone started laughing. Mr. Belden then reiterated that whatever needed to happen needed to happen to get this done.
Mr. O’Keeffe raised a citizen request about the possibility of having a dog park in town. The mayor asked if they had a yard or not. She was informed that they lived in an apartment and had no yard. The council while acknowledging that dog parks serve a good purpose they did not see the need here.
Mr. Waddell re-raised the issue of why the Street Superintendent is an hourly versus salaried position and requested that it be on the next months agenda as he had requested it be on tonights agenda and was not there. He at least wanted to be provided with the basics and what constitutes the basis for hourly vs salaried. How the current determination was made. Why is that supervisory position the only one in the city that is not salaried. A short discussion ensued on the accumulation and use of comp time and expectations for work hours during snow removal times. No decisions were made and the topic is to be on next months agenda for discussion.
Mr. Belden re-raised the issue of the driveway curb installation for the neighbor of 103 N. 4th Street. This issue has been talked about for the last several months and no decision was made on whether to have the curb put back to the way it was before the N. Division Street construction or leave it the way it is. The same issues of if they order it changed how much will it compromise the curb from the cuts in the future were re-raised. The council asked what problems it was causing and they were informed that they were now parking on the grass in his yard. Mr. Waddell then asked how it got changed in the first place and was informed that the neighbor requested it of the construction crew who then changed it. The mayor then asked if the property line had been determined yet. She was informed that the survey pins could not be found. Mr. Belden wanted the issue decided and Mr. Crawford wanted to have more information before that happened. He pointed out that if they make the decision to put it back then the next month they have to neighbor back complaining about the change. It was decided that they would have the property owner, renter and Mr. Aldrich at the next meeting to get this figured out.
April 15, 2008
By Peggy Schlichter
Here is a recap of the agenda items that do not require separate posts.
Amendment of City Budget – There were no comments at the public hearing to amend the city budget. A motion was made and passed to approve the amendment.
Bathhouse Project – A motion was made and passed to approve payment number 6 on the bathhouse project. The amount of the payment was not announced.
N. Division Street Project – A representative from Veenesta & Kimm informed the council that after this payment about $16 k was remaining in the held back funds. The price of the remaining work is well within the $16 k level. When asked about the liquidated damages he explained that this payment does not affect those issues. There is some grinding that needs to be done at 3rd and 4th Streets to eliminate ponding and the grading and seeding is also within the remaining amount. The contractor will be on-site starting today for the next couple of weeks to work on the clean up items list. Mr. Ashour informed the council that a special meeting will be held to discuss the liquidated damages with Mr. Aldrich at a future date. A motion was made and passed to approve the payment.
Rate Increase For Swimming Pool – The council made and passed a motion to increase the swimming pool rates by 25 percent across the board. The only exception is the red cross sponsored swiming lessons. The pool director was not sure if the Red Cross controled those rates or not. She will update the council when the determination is made. If the City controls this rate they will increase also.
Amendment of the Urban Renewal Plan – A motion was made and passed to set the date of May 12th at 6:30 pm for the public hearing to amend the Urban Renewal Plan. This is the date of the next regular council meeting.
Rescue Unit Director Contract – Mr. Kenny Vanlandingham and Mr. Jeff Howard presented the council with the Rescue Board and their comments on the proposed contract. They pointed out that they agreed with the way overtime is paid in the proposed contract. One objection they raised was that they thought that the residency requirement should be extended to 12 months instead of 6 stating that even the new officer is having trouble finding a residence. The council did not want to change the requirement and thought that it should remain at 6 months. They next raised the issue of approving overtime. There was an apparent mis-communication on who approves overtime for the rescue personnel. Mr. Waddell clarified that the Rescue Board is responsible for approving overtime and staying within their budget. Mr. Vanlandingham then suggested that the wording be changed to reflect that the Rescue Board monitors and approves overtime. The last suggested change was the the position require a 30 day notice to resign or terminate from the job. This recommendation is standard in the emergency services field and they recommended that the contract be ammended to reflect this. The council questioned if there was a conflict with Iowa’s At-Will law. Mr. Ashhour informed the council that he would pass the comments to Mr. Jeff Bump for review and research.
Police Report – In conjunction with the county the school was searched and some drugs were removed. They are continuing to work on infractions. Some are getting cleaned up and some are not. There are 32 notices being sent out. That ended his report.
It’s supper time and I am tired of sitting in front of the computer. There is still 3 topics to cover. The Old\New Business, The Auditors Report and the incredibly long City Building Funding Discussion. They will probably not go up until tomorrow. Have a good evening.
By Peggy Schlichter
Mr. Doug Galliano of 115 N. Harlan lodged his 5th complaint about the condition of the alley on the 100th block of N. Harlan. He informed the council that in the 26 years he has lived there the city has never cleaned the snow from the alley and has only dumped a couple of buckets of rock there. The ruts are so bad that they will tear up vehicles. The north end has a very large hole that is continuing to get worse. The council needed to understand that the alley is the only access homeowners have to their garages. The alley is also used by the sale barn to load and unload livestock. Mr. Galliano asked that the city fix the alley. He also stated that the last time the city did anything with the alley they dumped a couple of buckets of large rock with sharp edges which caused two flat tires. After complaining to the city and receiving no response he went out and threw the large rocks causing the tire damage out of the alley. He felt that he was not asking to much in having the city fix the alley.
Mr. Crawford stated that if this is the 5th time then Bob must know about it.
Mr. Sherman then pointed out that the alley does not have a base to support the heavy trucks using the alley and that is the problem.
Mr. Henderson informed the council that once it warms up and dries it is on the plan to take the grader through all the alleys whether they are used or not. He stated that they start with using the gound asphalt on those alleys that have a base. The alley in question has no base and will have to be hoed out and large rock placed at the bottom to establish a base. There is a culvert at one end and utilities are there also. He explained that caution must be used in digging the base.
This concluded the discussion.
By Peggy Schlichter
Mrs. Mary Jane McKee presented a complaint to the council on the municipal infraction she received for failing to have the snow removed from her sidewalk. She informed the council that she never received a door hanger nor was her sidewalk ever cleaned by the contractor. She also stated that the officer for that area told her that he did not leave anything on her door nor did he turn in a request to have it cleaned. She verified that she was home that day and that the sidewalk was not cleared by anyone. Her health care lady that visits her each week also confirmed that the sidewalk was not cleared by the contractor.
When the mayor asked if the pictures were available Robert stated that they were but that the officer was called to an accident and did not return to take the after picture.
The mayor then clarified that the sidewalk is to be cleaned whether it is used or not. The questions in this issue that needed to be answered were was the door tag placed and whether it was actually cleared or not.
Mr. Sherman explained that the reason for the door hangers was to get people used to the requirement but regardless of the hangers all sidewalks are to be cleared within 48 hours from the end of the snowfall. Door Hangers will not be used next year for snow removal.
Mr. Crawford then stated that with out the documentation to support the cities case they cannot enforce the fine.
Mr. Waddell then asked who is going to pay the $40 to the contractor. It was decided that since the city could not prove the case they would pay the bill.
Robert then suggested that the contractor take the after picture when he has finished clearing the sidewalk. The mayor and council did not think that was a good idea because then the question comes up about when the pictures were taken and by who. The officers need to go back and complete their requirements of documenting the infraction.
Robert then informed the council that the contractor reported he cleaned 10 sidewalks in that part of town that day.
Mr. McKee reiterated that she was home that day and the sidewalk was not cleared.
Mr. Sherman then agreed that without the documentation they could not enforce the infraction.
A motion was made and passed to rescind the citation with the understanding that the sidewalk must be cleared in the future in accordance with the municipal code and a reminder that door hangers will not be used next year for snow removal infractions.
By Peggy Schlichter
Mr. Jason White presented an overview of the on-going economic development projects they are pursuing.
Midwest Partnership has teamed up with Western Iowa Advantage to launch a Youtube Competition for short clips to be used to help draw young professionals to Iowa. There are several prizes that will be awarded for the winning clips.
To promote entrepreneurship in rural Iowa they have teamed up with Renew Rural Iowa to provide 10 seminars across the state. The seminars are for anyone considering or interested in starting a new business and help them see the advantage of locating in rural Iowa. April 29th is the date for the seminar in this area. Any one considering a new business is encouraged to attend. Here is the seminar info. If you wish to see other economic development information just go the the home page and start there.
Midwest has also started a new program designed to identify the existing needs of regional employers. They are visiting each employer with a list of 30 to 40 questions on marketing, management and hiring to develop a better understanding of the areas needs.
Business recruitment for Hawkeye Renewals garnered about 400 applications during their hiring fair last month. As a result they have started their interviews for hiring.
Mr. White reviewed the infrastructure marketing as they relate to transportation, and available sites. Of note were the available rail spur and land adjacent to I-80.
In the area there are currently 24 sites and 19 buildings listed in the state economic development locator system. 18 of the 19 buildings are under 15 k square feet. Most businesses are looking for a building of 25 K square feet or larger. Because of this they are working on a virtual building software program through Western Iowa Advantage with a $50 k grant from the state. This program will allow them to design a building based on the prospective companies needs. Based on the program they can then identify contractors who are capable of the design and construction within a specified time-frame. This gives the prospective companies the flexibility to incorporate their needs from the beginning without trying to sell them on a already constructed building.
By Peggy Schlichter
Deb Johnson, from the community Care Center Board, outlined for the council their plans for a fund raising Open House and walk on June 7th that corresponds with the White Pole Road Days and requested that the council approve their request to allow the event.
The walk route starts at the Community Care Center and goes north on S. Western, east on 3rd Street, cross S. Division Street at the Cyclone, down around the walking trail and return to the Community Care Center by the same route. They have arranged with the Rescue Unit to follow the walk. Dr. Wiessinger is supporting the event and will ride in a golf cart in the middle of the pack. The Stuart Police will provide traffic control for the crossings of S. Division Street.
A motion was made and passed to allow the event.
By Peggy Schlichter
Mr. Michael Hauf presented a request to the council to abandon the alley in the 600 block of Front Street. The problem that prompted the request is that the alley was never opened and a house was built in the alleyway 50 years ago.
The council expressed concern that they did not want to set a precedent on abandoning alleys but felt that this was a exceptional circumstance. The council made a motion to proceed with granting the easement as long as the Planning and Zoning Commission approved the change.
Mr. Hauf will address the Planning and Zoning Commission on thursday night to request their approval.
By Peggy Schlichter
Mr. Chris Whitaker presented to the council documentation requiring the mayor’s signature to acquire the necessary documentation and funds for the Waste-Water Treatment Upgrade and two contracts to administer the $1.645M and $500k grants. The Contracts to administer the grants are for $20k and $5k and are paid by the grants without additional money from the city.
The council approved and passed the motion.
By Peggy Schlichter
Architect Bob Olsen from the Masonic Temple discussions presented a representative from Durrant Capital Resources as another option to consider in financing the city buildings. Durrant is a large architectural firm with a Capital Resources Division who helps communities find and acquire financing for construction.
What sets them appart is that they use a lease to own option with a cash exchange at the end of the term to transfer ownership to the municipality. Use of this firm requires a 3 year audit of the city finances to ensure them that the finances are sound and secure financing using annual appropriation bonds only.
They concluded their presentation by leaving some brochures with the council.
April 13, 2008
Here is the agenda for the April City Council Meeting.
April 12, 2008
By Peggy Schlichter
The Library Board, Director and Staff invite everyone to come and help them celebrate the One Hundredth Birthday of the Stuart Public Library on April 25th at 1 pm. For Details check out their flyer.
If you are interested in a little history on the Stuart Public Library go here.