THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS – 1/13/14 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY

The following represents an unofficial account of the significant items discussed and/or voted upon during the January 13, 2014 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 as part of the February 2014 Regular Meeting Agenda packet.

Note: Mayor Beehan was absent.

IV. APPEARANCE OF CITIZENS

Multiple citizens spoke on the following topics: Coyotes in neighborhoods on both ends of town; the dangerous conditions of Applewood and Jackson Square Apartments; celebrating the 70 year anniversary of the end of WWII; call for providing sufficient data to council before meetings (reference to last month’s discussion on Secret City Funding)

VII. CONSENT AGENDA 4 items passed by unanimous vote; 1 was removed

Items included: A resolution authorizing the issuance of good moral character letters for employees of the Oak Ridge Moose Lodge No 1316 and the Atomic City Eagles No 2514; Bid award of $141,080 to Stuart c. Irby Co. for (4) Intellirupter Pulsecloser devices.

Removed Item

e. Resolution authorizing the pursuit of a $250K grant from TDEC to replace parts of the HVAC system in the Central Services Complex (CSC). Requires a 60% city match equaling $375K   Motion passed 5-1 with Baughn voting “Nay”

The last two CIPs (Capital Improvements Program which prioritizes capital projects) contain no reference to the need for an HVAC upgrade at the CSC. The CIP does, however, references needs at 4 different schools with Robertsville Middle School being the greatest need and at a cost less than the city match ($350K). I asked which was a greater need, RMS or the CSC given that the CSC is less than 20 years old and houses 116 employees while RMS is a 60 year old building with nearly 700 students. It has been reported that the RMS HVAC is so old and loud that teachers have to turn it off just for students to be able to hear them. City staff could not verify the age or condition of the RMS HVAC or speak to which was the greater need. I motioned to redirect these funds to RMS. The motion died on the floor for lack of a second.

VIII. RESOLUTIONS

A.      Resolution amendment to extend abatement period for Protmet Phase II Equipment Lease. (See approval of original amendment here.) Motion passed  4-2 with Garland & Baughn voting “Nay”

This makes for a third request from this company for concessions. Essentially, the second abatement is for  5 years at 100% on all new investment in the land, building and equipment. The owner will not receive some of the equipment for a few years and wanted to have the agreement extended from the point of receiving that equipment to the fifth year rather than from the initial point of the abatement.

Tax Abatements, TIFs, “Public/Private Partnerships” all are essentially gifts from the city that subsidize select businesses through the IDB. I’ve recently inquired about how truly beneficial these gifts are to the full-paying taxpayers. To determine that, though, first requires an answer to one simple question that has eluded me for some time: What is the city’s ROI on these deals?

This company served as a nice initial case study. As best as I could decipher, I determined that both abatements combined will result in a total Protomet Investment over 12 year period of $4.85M with the total of the City/County Gift = $542K. This presumes that the company will meet its benchmark of the second abatement.

While the answer to my ROI question appears to be positive, the next question remains unanswered (for me at least): How much is enough?  How many breaks should we, the full paying taxpayers, afford this one company?

The other part of all of this is that the IDB and the council are able to unilaterally approve these things without seeking the approval of the county, who is the benefactor of roughly half of the taxes I cite in the$542K. At this juncture, I  maintain that we wouldn’t have to make all of these concessions if we would just level the playing field for everyone by reducing our tax rate.

B.      Resolution dissolving the Highland View Redevelopment Advisory Board Motion passed  unanimously

C.      MOU between the city and schools regarding the operation and installation of a fiber optic network. Motion passed  unanimously

D.      Resolution authorizing the hiring of (1) additional School Resource Officer Motion passed  5-1 with Garland voting “Nay”

Garland voted to table the motion which died for lack of a second. Baughn motioned to increase the resolution from 1 to 2 SROs; it also died for lack of a second. After much discussion, I repeated my earlier request for a special meeting to be conducted with the BOE to address  a complete  assessment of all of our schools to include physical, policy and procedure vulnerabilities and to carve out a definitive plan moving forward. My request was seconded by Garland (per the charter, a vote is not needed to call a special meeting; only the agreement of two council members.) We directed the city manager to proceed with scheduling within the next 1-2 months.

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