THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS – 11/11/13 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY

The following represents an unofficial account of the significant items discussed and/or voted upon during the November 11,  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 December 9th Regular Meeting Agenda packet.

VI. SPECIAL REPORTS

a. Oak Ridge Heritage Railroad Authority annual Report Motion passed unanimously

b. City Manager Evaluation Committee: Resolution to amend the city manager’s employment agreement to provide for an equivalent 10% salary increase. Baughn motioned to reduce to 1%. Seconded by Garcia Garland. Motion failed 5-2 with Baughn and Garcia Garland voting “Aye.” Mosby motioned to reduce to 4%. Motioned failed 4-2-1 with Mosby & Garcia Garland voting “Aye” and Baughn abstaining. Main motion passed 4-3 with Beehan, Hope, Miller & Hensley voting in full favor of the 10% increase and Baughn, Garcia Garland and Mosby voting “Nay.”

My primary objections:

  • The city manager is very well compensated when one considers that his total compensation package is valued at over $205K which does not include the $28K vehicle that taxpayers have provided him for both personal and professional use; nor does it include the taxpayer funded maintenance and fuel costs for that vehicle.
  • If the reward is to be financial, then the basis of that reward should be financial. Since Mr. Watson arrived in 2010, city general fund revenues are down 7.6% ($3M) and spending has increased 5%. If anything, a cut would be warranted.
  • A true leader does not ask more of his employees or the taxpayers affording him his employment. He recommended a 1% raise for his employees this year. It was confirmed that due to the 3% increase in health benefits, city employees actually saw a loss in take home pay.

VII. CONSENT AGENDA 4 items total, 2 removed by Baughn, remaining 2 passed by unanimous vote

b. Approval of October 28, 2013 city Council Work Session minutes.

d. Resolution awarding a bid to HD Power Solutions for (6) VSA-16 reclosers in the amount of $104,782.

Removed from Consent Agenda

a. Approval Oct 14th city council meeting minutes. Baughn moved to amend to include the following clarification provided by the city manager regarding water and sewer rate increases:

The impact on the rate increases would range from 66% to 101% for water and 102% to 135% for wastewater, with the combined utilities impact ranging from 95% to 106% as the level of usage would cause the percent increase to vary.

Amended motion passed unanimously.

c. Resolution awarding a contract to Ronald Franks Construction for pedestrian safety improvements in the amount of $364,655. Funding source is the Special Projects Fund, AKA Red Light Camera fund.

 Baughn moved to postpone indefinitely. Hope seconded. Motion failed 4-3 with Hope, Baughn and Garcia Garland voting “Aye.” Main motion failed 3-4 with Hope, Baughn, Garcia Garland and Mosby voting “Nay.”

Note: I expressed my concern that we were rapidly depleting these funds (the fund balance would have decreased by $1M to $235K had this item passed). Without these funds, we face fewer options to replace the cameras with permanent safety solutions when the contract comes up for consideration in the spring. Most of my fellow councilmembers expressed the same concerns.

VIII. RESOLUTIONS(item c was moved ahead and actually voted on first in advance of the other resolutions)

a. Resolution authorizing the purchase of (8) police patrol vehicles in the amount of $402,304. motion passed unanimously

b. Resolution approving the reauthorization of the IDB PILOT program (tax abatements).

Baughn moved to postpone the main motion until the IDB provides some data that demonstrates measurable success or failures of this program. Garcia Garland seconded the motion. Baughn later retracted the motion and offered a substitute motion to merely extend the program for 6 months. That motion failed 5-2 with Baughn and Garcia Garland voting “Aye.”

The original motion passed 5-1-1 with Baughn voting “Nay” and Garcia Garland abstaining.

Notes: No justification was provided for the continuance of this program. I asked for a basis for the recommendation and I  asked what was the measure of success or failure of the program. No real answers were offered. I asked “How much revenue has been generated and directly contributed to the city’s bottom line since inception of the program in 2004?” Not data was provided. Since inception, we’ve afforded roughly a dozen businesses very generous incentives. Simplified examples include:

  1. OMEGA: 100% for 7 years – ends Dec 2018
  2. PRO2SERV: 100% for 8 years plus multiple grants
  3. BRISTOL APARTMENTS: 50% abatement for 10 years
  4. CENTENNIAL VILLAGE APTS : 50% for 20 years
  5. STAYBRIDGE HOTEL: 50% for 10 years PILOT
  6. OR Tool & Die : 100% for 7 years
  7. USEC:   Multiple PILTS on land and building and equipment: 50% real/50% personal for 10 years
  8. NATIONAL FINTESS :           33% for 10 years
  9. NUCSAFE – backed out late 2012; terminating agreement: 50% Real/100% personal for 7 years
  10. PROTOMET (1) : 100 % for 4 years

David Wilson, the chair of the IDB (the state-authorized body that has developed and administers this program), responded that measuring success or failure was not the responsibility of the IDB but of the council. He further suggested that such measures would be entirely subjective.

Mayor Beehan went on the express concern about having the ability to offer additional abatements to companies seeking contracts with the UPF. He and the city manager alluded to pending deals that would be adversely affected if the plan were not adopted tonight.

c. Resolution to approve the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Economic Impact Plan for the redevelopment of the Oak Ridge Mall area. Motion passed 6-0-1 with Baughn abstaining.

While I believe that this project has great potential to be successful, I could not support assuming the level of risk to our city given our history of enormous failures and given the term of 20-30 years. One of the reasons that our property taxes are so high is because home owners and businesses are having to make up for the revenues not collected on roughly 400 tax exempt parcels that represent well over $106,469,700 in value. Many of those parcels, including the city-owned land on which the Chamber of Commerce sits, will produce no property tax for decades due to similar deals made in the past by some of the same supporters of this project. While there is no guarantee that the anticipated sales tax revenue will materialize, there is a guarantee that we will see no further property taxes on this 60 acres tract located in the heart of our city for at least 20, possibly 30 years. However, given the tremendous support expressed by the general public, I chose not to stand in the way and thus voted to abstain.

d. Resolution establishing qualification preferences for the Land Bank Board of Directors and establishing goals and objectives for said board. Motion passed 6-0-1 with Baughn abstaining.

As I’ve stated before, I do not support the Land Bank program and found nothing of substance in this resolution.

XI. ELECTIONS/APPOINTMENTS

Baughn unanimously appointed to represent council on an audit firm selection committee

XII. COUNCIL REQUESTS FOR NEW BUSINESS

Garcia Garland requested that a new senior center be the topic of a future work session.

Hope requested that the PILOT program be a topic of a future work session.

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3 thoughts on “THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS – 11/11/13 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY

  1. This business with the 10% raise makes me sick!
    I am floored by the actions of the 3 member evaluation committee. How can they justify that large of an increase?
    I am appalled at the City Manager that accepted this raise.
    I am ASHAMED of the 4 who voted it into effect ! Clearly they were not representing the people who elected them!
    I am an Oncology nurse, working weekend nights, and I will be fighting hard for a 1.5% raise ! Needless to say, after my 24% increase in health insurance goes into effect, I will probably be losing money this year.
    Can Mr. Watson honestly say he works harder than I do? I take pride in my job and if I am privileged to be there as they take their last breath that’s worth more than all the money in the world. Take pride in a well done job. There is more to life than the almighty dollar.

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