THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS – 6/10/13 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY/Follow up special meeting 6/17/2013

The following represents an unofficial account of the significant items discussed and/or voted upon during the June 10th, 2013 City Council Regular Meeting. The complete agenda packet as well as a video of the meeting can be viewed here. Draft meeting minutes will be posted at the city website, most likely, as part of the July 8th Regular Meeting Agenda packet.

IV. APPEARANCE OF CITIZENS

Four citizens spoke in opposition to the installation of power lines at the Horizon Center Business Park. I do not know if this matter will eventually come before council or not, but remain open to hearing arguments both for and against it. Here is one recent article on the matter.

VII. CONSENT AGENDA   (4 items total, all passed by unanimous vote)

b. Resolution extending ETHRA (public transit) contract through October 31, 2013 in order to align with the TDOT Operating Assistance Grant which provides partial funding of the operating expenses for the City’s transit program. NOTE: The public transit portions of the budget involve a grant  for 50% of projected costs for the Taxi support and ETHRA.  The other 50% is paid for with gas tax shared revenue from the state, of which funds are restricted to transit operational support. 

c. Resolution to continue participation in the East Tennessee Economic Development Agency, with annual membership dues in the amount of $26,116 for the 2013 calendar year. TVA reimburses the City for approximately one half of the membership dues. Therefore, the actual cost of membership will be $13,058

Of staff, I asked: What are some of the most significant, tangible ROI benefits that the COR has realized as a result of this investment?

The response (abbreviated by me): Jack Suggs, our Electric Dept. Director, currently serves on the ETEDA Board of Directors.  Over the last three years, even in the extremely bad economic conditions, ETEDA has brought 58, 44, and 37 active projects to our region for 2010,2011 and 2012 respectively. IN addition to targeted promotion, ETEDA provides significant support to local economic developers.  It works in conjunction with TVA’s economic development department (the regional office is co-located with ETEDA) and the state economic development department.  The support activities include maintaining/providing several databases that are available for economic developers.  These include databases of available properties and buildings in the area, demographic information for each county and salary information which is used in recruiting.   ETEDA also maintains a continuously updated regional website with is used both in marketing efforts and to support the prospect needs of the local communities. Finally, ETEDA provides information and training services for the local economic developers, ranging from bringing State specialists to help the local economic developers learn about State grants or loans,  how to prepare effective proposals to TVA presentations on various TVA agency incentives that would be available for clients.

d. Resolution to spend $15,000 from FY2013 budget for media equipment for the courtroom.

We are moving left over FY13 funds into FY14 including possible purchase of a new sound board.

VIII. RESOLUTIONS

a. A resolution redirecting previously approved funds in the amount of $488,000 and the expenditure of additional funds in the amount of $944,000 for contracts with Lamar Dunn & Associates, Inc.  for assistance with various tasks required for compliance with the EPA Administrative Order. Passed 6-1 with Baughn voting “Nay.”

My statement prior to the vote: I note that the total amount of this contract to a single firm, without bid, is $1.4 million. Furthermore, the COR has spent over $10 million with this same firm over the last 25 years. In the mid-90’s, the City of Oak Ridge contracted with Lamar Dunn  to study our collection system and provide recommendations on means and methods to address the Sanitary Sewer Overflow incidents that the EPA had warned us about in 1994. Twenty +  years and $24M  later, the City of Oak Ridge is cleaning up a mess of our own making due to our failure to properly adhere to multiple warnings from the EPA. Instead of acknowledging and learning from our mistakes, this council has chosen to further penalize our rate payers by shifting the entire burden onto them.  I will not support financially rewarding the very firm who should have helped us avoid what will likely be the largest expense of our city’s history.

b. A resolution awarding a contract to Seelbach & Company, Inc.,Lawrenceville, Georgia, for tree pruning,tree removal, and brush control along power lines in the estimated amount of $1,385,081 Passed 6-1 with Mosby voting “Nay.” 

I expressed concern about the length of our relationship with this one firm (16 years)and  our inability to attract bids from within our own city or county. Mr. Suggs provided details of the history and nuances affiliated with this contract including that it was widely advertised. In the end, my vote was influenced by his point that local companies likely do not possess the necessary skills to perform the work since they frequently call upon his staff for assistance when they are working around power lines.

c. A resolution approving the continued contract with the Ferguson Group, LLC, for federal lobbyist services for the amount of $30,000 at a rate of $425 per hour with an allowance of $5,000 for expenses. *Amended/Passed unanimously.

Note: Staff provided details on a number of initiatives that this group has worked on for Oak Ridge over the past year. Unlike in years past, we only pay for what we use. We began working on a monthly basis last year and only used $11,000 of the $30,000. I recall that the total contract previously exceeded $60,000.

*Hensley’s motion that the verbiage of the contract reflect a maximum hourly rate of $425 and include a rate structure table was unanimously approved prior to the final vote.

d. A resolution awarding bids in the grand total estimated amount of $1,281,620 for the furnishing of various materials as required by the City during Fiscal Year 2014.   Passed unanimously.

e. A resolution waiving competitive bids and making awards in the grand total estimated amount of $5,490,400  to suppliers for the furnishing of routine materials, equipment, and services as required by the City during Fiscal Year 2014. *Passed unanimously with major amendment.

This resolution required unanimous approval. I expressed concerns about the category of “BEST Provider” which was justified only by a statement that the firms were “determined to be best source based on expertise, service record or contractual agreement” After a lengthy discussion, I made a motion to approve only those contracts that fell into the categories of Sole Provider and Partnership Contract. That motion was approved unanimously and the remaining category of Best Provider was to be addressed during the July meeting. However, it was discovered that there were 6 contracts with June 30th deadlines. A subsequent Special Meeting was held on June 17th to approve those items. After an hour of discussion, each was approved unanimously. I’ve briefly noted the points of each below that influenced my vote.

  1. $713,000 fuel contract – Though the city has maintained this long term relationship, they frequently check to ensure competitive pricing. The primary indicator comes from the state’s contract, which we have the ability to participate in. Their pricing is greater than what we pay per gallon. (I’ve misplaced my notes, or I’d elaborate)
  2. $450,000 water plant chemicals – these items are actually contracted with multiple vendors and the largest expenditure was recently changed to a more competitive vendor. Staff regularly shops around via their interactions with other cities for the most efficient and cost effective products.
  3. $179,000 life and disability insurance – Staff reviewed quotes as recently as May 2012
  4. $1.24 million property, liability and worker’s comp insurance – TML acts as our broker and shops for us, provides us with a $40K annual discount, refunds us when able (last year that amounted to $5,000) and provides additional services for our membership such as mediation/negotiation of claims.
  5. $84,000 maintenance contract on one of our existing communication systems
  6. $130,000 3 separate contracts for telecom/I.T./internet — 2 of 3 of these are in mid-contract

f. Resolution authorizing the extension of its Waterworks Interfund Loan Capital Outlay Note. Passed unanimously

Spreading final payment of $1.7M out over 7 years at $238K per year ….adds $67K in interest, but helps with cash flow

g. Initial resolution authorizing the issuance of not to exceed $3,700,000 general obligation bonds of the City of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. New debt: $3M for EPA/Sewer Work; $700K for water projects Passed 6-1 with Baughn voting “Nay.” **

h. A resolution authorizing the issuance of general obligation bonds, series 2013, in the aggregate principal amount of not to $24,500,000. Passed 6-1 with Baughn voting “Nay.” ** 

**Despite how it reads, item h is not the incurrence of new principal debt; rather, it is a combination of refunding and reissuance of existing debt. With the approval of items g & h comes a total new debt of $3.8 million; total P&I will cost taxpayers $10.5million. My reasons for not approving can be found here, here, here and here. I will not approve new debt until council develops a debt policy and acknowledges the city’s failures with regards to the EPA Administrative Order.

i. CC Rules and Procedures passed unanimously with multiple minor amendments and challenges by council members Beehan, Hensley & Miller who primarily opposed changes affecting proclamations

IX. PUBLIC HEARINGS AND FIRST READING OF ORDINANCES – 1 item, passed unanimously

First Reading

AN ORDINANCE TO CREATING A NEW CHAPTER 4, TITLED “DOG PARKS,” TO ESTABLISH PERMISSION FOR DOGS TO BE OFF-LEASH IN CITY-OWNED DOG PARKS AND TO ESTABLISH CERTAIN REQUIREMENTS FOR USE.

XII. COUNCIL REQUESTS FOR NEW BUSINESS OR FUTURE BRIEFINGS

  • Mayor Beehan requested that council consider supporting legislation to force online retailers to pay sales tax
  • Counilman Hope requested that council meet with the new superintendent ASAP to resolve the high school mortgage issue
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