The following represents an unofficial account of the significant items discussed and/or voted upon during the December 9, 2013 City Council Regular Meeting. The complete agenda packet as well as a video (which you can now fast forward and rewind through) of the meeting can be viewed here. Draft meeting minutes will be posted at the city website, most likely, as part of the January 2014 Regular Meeting Agenda packet.
Note: Councilman Hope was absent.
VII. CONSENT AGENDA 8 items total, all passed by unanimous vote
Items included: Transfer of surplus 1993 ambulance to Anderson County; $32K city grant to Healthy Start of Anderson County; $29K purchase of sewer pipes; $33K contract award for sewer pumps; adoption of city council 2014 meeting schedule; amendments to bylaws of Personnel Advisory Board. Note: Sewer expenses not earmarked as associated with the EPA A.O.
a. Bid award for $53,900 to Industrial Technologies for SCADA system. Motion 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) which has resulted in wastewater rate increases thus far between 102% to 135%. Until the city takes responsibility for its failures and pursues alternative funding that does not further burden our ratepayers, I will not support spending without accountability.
b. Contract to purchase .73 acres of private property from Terry Mullins for the price of $125,000 for use as an alternative site location for an EQ Basin. Motion passed 5-1 with Baughn voting “Nay”
I asked Councilmember Hensley to consider recusing himself from deliberations and voting given his conflict of interest. He originally suggested making an offer to Mr. Mullins and also considered himself an employee of Mr. Mullins as recently as last year. Also, Mr. Mullins was one of Mr. Hensley’s largest campaign contributors. Mr. Hensley rejected my request. I could not justify unnecessarily spending $125K of taxpayer money to purchase land (and removing it from the tax rolls) when city staff provided alternatives using existing city owned land.
c. Contract with the Arts Council for $150,000 to coordinate the 2014 Secret City Festival Motion passed 4-2 with Baughn & Garcia Garland voting “Nay”
I made a motion to reallocate these funds towards funding 2 SROs (one each for the middle schools). As it stands, we still only have one SRO for our entire school system even though we led the public to believe that we would increase SROs 6 months ago. Ms. Garland seconded for discussion.
I made the point that our priorities were out of whack and that we find money when we want to. In just a few recent months, we found $250K more for the schools, a 10% raise for Mr. Watson, $125K for land we don’t need and now we want to spend over $200K for an annual party. I asked Mr. Watson why we still only had one SRO to which he replied that we don’t have the votes, the money, or the need. Ms. Garland stated that she would not support my motion. Given a complete lack of support, I withdrew my motion.
The discussion turned to understanding real, total costs of the festival as well as the logistics of the money. We know from years past that in addition to this $150K, the $50K below, at least $170K additional monies are spent in city employee man hours. Furthermore, we have two additional accounts with current balances of $56,096 and $96,719. Ms. Garland and I attempted to get an answer to this question, but were unsuccessful: How much does the Secret City Festival cost the taxpayer?
Mr. Watson stated that if we wanted that information, he would only do so if council voted for him to provide it. Mr. Hensley concurred and stated he had a real issue with making staff pull this information together. Mayor Beehan encouraged us to have a work session on the issue. Ms. Miller said that just because one, two or three council members ask for information doesn’t mean the city manager should provide it.
d. Authorization of the Rec & Parks department to spend $50,000 on city sponsorship of the 2014 Secret City Festival. Motion passed 5-1 with Baughn voting “Nay”
XII. COUNCIL REQUEST FOR NEW BUSINESS
Last week, I requested the city manager answer the following questions. His responses, in summary are in blue:
Some time back I asked that council be updated at least quarterly on school/ORPD/security issues. We are half-way through the school year and have had a number of publicized incidents but no report.
1. How many of the risk assessments for our 8 school buildings have been completed? One
2. How many hours per week do we have officers in our middle schools? 15-30 minutes per day
3. When do we expect to place permanent SROs in our middle schools? Not before we deliberate the 2015 budget.
4. For all schools, how many calls has the ORPD responded to this school year – either at a school facility or a bus stop? Please expect follow up questions regarding the nature of those calls should it not be clear, i.e. involvement of weapons, drugs, violence, adults, arrests, etc. You can find this information on your own online.