THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS – 3/3/14 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY

The following represents an unofficial account of the significant items discussed and/or voted upon during the March 3, 2014 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 April 2014 Regular Meeting Agenda packet.

IV. APPEARANCE OF CITIZENS

Multiple citizens spoke in favor of funding the visitor’s side bleachers. I asked BOE Chair Keys Fillauer what the schools had discussed as far as funding possibilities to which he replied, “The city pays all, the schools pay all, the city and schools share, we ask for donations, borrow from 2015 CIP and/or fund balance.”

VII. CONSENT AGENDA  3 items passed by unanimous vote

b. Resolution granting renewal permits to multiple persons engaged in the retail sale of alcoholic beverages

c. Resolution to apply for and accept Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program funds from TN HUD in the estimated amount of $52,492

VIII. RESOLUTIONS

A. Joint Resolution between the city council and BOE relating to the discrepancy over payment of the High School Debt.

My  request to have a chronology and impact statement (see unmodified version here) entered into record are challenged by Hensley and Beehan. The city clerk advised me to re-submit with a request that they be entered into next month’s minutes as a communication.

My question for City Manager Mark Watson: You have stated that if passed, this resolution will require the city to make up approximately $10 million to cover the deficiency. How does this resolution stipulate that we will make up that $10.3M?  Watson Response: It doesn’t

Baughn Statement and Questions for City Attorney Ken Krushenski: You have done an excellent job of disproving any and all of the BOE’s claims since this ordeal began. You’ve gone so far as to post all of the evidence on the city website that demonstrates an original agreement and understanding by the BOE to appropriate all sales tax, collected both in and outside of the city’s limits, towards the high school debt. It is unconscionable to me that 4 people can invalidate the legally expressed will of the people. Do you find this resolution, which essentially nullifies the 2004 referendum, to be legal? Krushenski’s response: YES        Ethical? Krushenski’s response: Non-committal  Should a citizen or citizens choose to take legal action against the city, would they not have sufficient evidence found in your data to successfully challenge this action? Krushenski’s response: Anyone can file a lawsuit

Mosby made a motion to amend to allow for the inclusion of a financial model that includes predictions of revenues that may offset the $10M cost shift from the schools to the city. Motion passed 7-0

Amended Joint Resolution passed 5-2 with Garland & Baughn voting “no”

—–Amendment made to agenda to include a resolution from the schools requesting the use of $1.75 million of their reserves to pay in part for a new technology initiative (Discovery Education/eBooks).

I questioned Dr. Borchers about the total project cost. He explained that of the $1.75 Million, $1 million would be used for “technology initiatives/technology infrastructure;” $750K would be for “teacher learning.” The 5 year contract, for which a funding source was not named, would cost $1.3 million. I asked if this initiative would provide ebooks for all students and Dr. Borchers responded that it would only provide them for middle and elementary school students. I questioned the merit of not first providing them to high schoolers who have to tote around 5-6 heavy books. I also challenged the merit of spending these kinds of funds on technology when a. we already spend $2-3 million per year  on technology in our schools and b. we have so many millions of dollars in school facilities  repair needs.

Motion passed 6-1 with Baughn voting “no”

B. Redflex Traffic Solutions Contract (Red Light and Speed Cameras)

  • Garland makes a statement in opposition to this contract
  • Hope makes a statement in opposition to this contract in its current state
  • Note: Councilman Hope departed the meeting at this point due to a family emergency. A moment of silence was observed out of respect for his father who was ill and passed away the next morning.
  • Beehan, Miller and Hensley make statements in support of the contract
  • Mosby makes a statement indicating opposition to this contract
  • Miller makes a motion to amend the resolution to allow for contract revisions of locations, mobile units and renegotiation of fees. Motion passed 4-1-1 with Mosby voting “no” and Baughn abstaining.
  • Hensley motions to postpone out of consideration for Hope. Motion passed 6-0

C. Resolution to install traffic signal at the OR Turnpike High School/Civic Center Crossing Baughn motioned to postpone until the next council meeting (in cooperation with the postponement of the Redflex issue) Motion passed 6-0

D. Resolution awarding bid of $154,620 to Guthrie Sales & Services for Two Replacement Motors for East Plant Pump Station Motion passed 6-0

E. Resolution awarding contract to Davis H. Elliot for labor and equipment for construction and maintenance of underground and overhead electric power lines in the estimated amount of $3,357,782 Motion passed 6-0

F. Resolution approving an Administrative Hearing Officer agreement. Motion passed 6-0

IX. PUBLIC HEARINGS AND FIRST READING OF ORDINANCES

First Reading of an Ordinance

Ordinance amending Title 5 “Municipal Finance and Taxation” Chapter 1 changing when property taxes are due from June 1st to July 1st Motion passed 4-2 with Mosby and Baughn voting “No”

Past efforts to change the due date revealed significant financial ramifications to immediate cash flow and long term interest losses. The finance director’s response to how much we would lose did not align with previous analysis. She claimed a minimal loss of future interest in the amount of less than $2500. I could not accept Ms. McGinnis’s statement of loss when the city will be forfeiting an entire month of revenue from annual receipts of roughly $20 million.

X. FINAL ADOPTION OF ORDINANCES

Amendment to Title 3 Municipal Court code by creating a new chapter entitled “Administrative Hearing Officer” to create an Administrative Hearing Officer Position. Motion passed 6-0

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5 thoughts on “THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS – 3/3/14 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY

  1. In regard to “the city will be forfeiting an entire month of revenue” statement in the ‘change of tax due date’ ordinance:

    I don’t believe we forfeit any revenue, only delay it for one month. It would be like having your paycheck sent to you a month late – you still get the money, but you lose what interest you’d have gained if it were in your account for that missing month.

    That’s the way I heard at the end. What I head at the beginning from Mr Watson didn’t make much sense to me, so I could have missed something key in what he said. I do recall him quoting a low figure, which i assume is the ‘lost interest’.

  2. Im confused about the administrative hearing officer.. Watson said this will be financed due to the vacant position of a former librarian position? What criteria is required for this position? The education requirements surely can’t be the same to warrant the same paycheck. I recall another position being “mad” for a ‘relocation specialist’ what a joke!

  3. Of all the counterintuitive things out there to ponder, red light cameras for traffic enforcement are not well understood by most people. They have lots of effects, some positive and some negative, but what their aggregate net effect will be, has yet to become a matter of political debate in Oak Ridge. Since their inception in the 1960’s there have been lots of studies, some by heavily conflicted entities, some with a predetermined political agendas, and others with promotional business agendas. Notably the vendors of traffic camera systems have been some of the most biased. Some of their ‘studies’ and excerpted reviews of other biased parties’ ‘studies’, frequently taken from isolated examples, border on the forms of advertizing more common to cheap internet scams.

    Discounting these conflicted studies, and after a half century of evaluation, it seems the general consensus of most dispassionate researchers is that traffic cameras have a slight negative effect on general public safety and a total net loss on the general economic wellbeing of local citizens. This comes even though they do contribute additional categorical revenue to their municipalities.

    They tend to be net losers of local revenue to and from all parties, after discounting the cost of fines to local motorist, increased collision costs for repair of motor vehicles, discouragement of tourism and commerce by outsiders, increased insurance costs due to actuarial pricing for accidents, higher insurance premiums as a result of more citations, and in lost revenue leaving the municipality and going to distant companies selling turn-key traffic enforcement solutions.

    While red light cameras have been statistically beneficial in reducing accidents while motorist are turning, they more than overcome this benefit in causing many more rear-end motor vehicle collisions and in more collisions with pedestrians, as motorist in red light districts lose situational awareness due to the added distraction of excessive speed monitoring on top of higher congestion as a result of lower speeds. Red light cameras also contribute to a wider dispersion of motor vehicle speeds which tends to contribute to more accidents, even though motorist typically go slower, nevertheless, slower is not always safer. Many of the better studies included the general effects of changing traffic patterns. In some cases increased safety risks were introduced when motorist started taking secondary and sometimes residential streets to avoid going through red light camera zones. All too frequently localities won’t be able to effectively evaluate their own statistical data because of the lack of a representative sample in their much smaller situation. Statistical noise will dominate their own data for years, until they build up a long baseline of accident data. In the interim, they will make policy decisions on intuition alone.

    Should Oak Ridge keep its traffic cameras? It all depends on what hat you wear. Are you a municipal budget planner, a frequent motorist on our streets, or someone in a different category? The ironic thing is that, despite the debate so far, the factors of public safety and the factors of municipal revenue are at loggerheads, and in some cases their pundits don’t even recognize their own inner contradictions. Why? Possibly it is because the many faceted effects of red light cameras are all too frequently counterintuitive to the casual observer. In the end safety possibly should be more a matter of personal effort and good citizenship, rather than a matter of crime and punishment, as the paradigm of red light cameras presupposes. The penal approach has its limits. Possibly red light cameras have found one.

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