The following represents an unofficial account of the significant items discussed and/or voted upon during the October 14, 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 as part of the November 11th Regular Meeting Agenda packet.
Note: Discussions about the ongoing financial disagreements between the city and the schools were discussed and are summarized at the end of this report.
III. ROLL CALL
Mayor Beehan was absent
VII. CONSENT AGENDA 8 items total, 1 removed by Baughn, remaining 7 passed by unanimous vote
f. Resolution accepting TDOT grant of $25,299 for traffic enforcement and safety improvements.
g. Contract award of $70,185 to Wesco Distribution for single-phase pole mounted transformers.
Removed from Consent Agenda
h. Amendment to the IDB Tax Increment Financing Policies. This item was added to the consent agenda after publication but before this meeting. The details are found here. The proposed change in section 3.9 was amended to remove verbiage starting at “and without” to the end of the sentence. Original amendment passed unanimously.
a. Resolution awarding a contract to Morgan Contracting, Baker, FL for the rehab of portions of wastewater collection and transportation system in the amount of $4,205,603. Passed 5-1 with Baughn voting “Nay” This spending is directly tied to the city’s multiple failures which led to the EPA administrative order (read here). Until the city takes responsibility for its failures and pursues alternative funding that does not further burden our ratepayers, I will not approve spending without accountability.
b. Contract with Steve Jones for economic development services for FY2014 in the amount of $28K. Passed unanimously
c. Adoption of state and federal legislative agenda. This item was added to the consent agenda after publication but before this meeting. The details are found here. Passed unanimously Council has made our top priority of this agenda the pursuit of legislative changes regarding Maintenance of Effort laws which penalize cities for funding local school systems above their required minimums. Staff provided an update that our lobbyist is working with our state representatives to submit multiple pieces of legislation in the coming weeks. Monthly updates were requested of staff.
X. FINAL ADOPTION OF ORDINANCES (see voting results from the first reading here.)
a. Personnel Plan Amendment: Update sections to clarify the definition of compensation, philosophy and policy, specify service requirements for promotion eligibility, add a new section on bonuses and provide a totally revised Grievance Procedure Passed unanimously
Before the votes on the water and sewer rate increases, I requested that the following statement be entered into the record, verbatim, and attributable to me. The validity of my assertion regarding the water rates not being related to the EPA order was challenged by council member Hensley who, despite being told twice by the city manager that it was true, maintained that my statement was one of opinion and not fact.
“This increase in water rates is completely unrelated to the EPA Administrative Order. With the approval of both water and sewer ordinances, rates will have increased, on average, 62% over a 34 month period. Additional increases are still to come. By 2019 residential water rates will have increased, on average, by 87% and sewer rates by 110%. Council refuses to pursue alternatives that could alleviate the burden off of our ratepayers.”
b. Water Rate Increases to take effect January 2014 & January 2015 * Passed 5-1 with Baughn voting “Nay”
c. Wastewater increases to take effect January 2014 & January 2015* Passed 5-1 with Baughn voting “Nay”
*Read my analysis and position statements on these increases here.
Gordon Fee was elected by acclamation to the Oak ridge Heritage Railroad Authority
XII. COUNCIL REQUESTS FOR NEW BUSINESS
A discussion ensued regarding the three courses of action that the city will pursue regarding the recent school debacle and the ongoing high school mortgage debate.
- Pursue legislative changes regarding MOE. (See item c above under RESOLUTIONS)
- Pursue charter changes that would give council some ability to hold the schools accountable for their budgeting projections, spending and other practices. Council instructed the city manager to set up a special meeting specifically focused on this matter.
- Pursue arbitration or remedy through the courts. Baughn and Garcia Garland pushed for the legal route given the definitive case that our city attorney has made. Henlsey pushed for binding arbitration. I argued against arbitration since we would risk forcing the citizens to pay more for the high school than they agreed to in the 2004 referendum.