7/14/14 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY

Ending shortly after midnight, this one might go down in the record books as the longest city council meeting ever. I should point out that it is the city manager who sets the agenda. 

The following represents an unofficial account of the significant items discussed and/or voted upon during the July 14, 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 most likely be posted at the city website as part of the August 2014 Regular Meeting Agenda packet.

IV. APPEARANCE OF CITIZENS

  • Mr. Raymond Mitchell shared his concerns about how the city handled his open records request. The ORPD refused to provide him with a police report and he eventually had to have a DA issue a subpoena to retrieve them. I reiterated my concerns to the city manager about how we handle open records requests as I have heard a number similar complaints as of late (not the least of which were these). Mr. Watson continues to deny that we may have a problem.
  • Ms. Virginia Jones requested that the city reach out to the Harris family and express regret or condolences for the death of their family member a few years ago in an incident involving the ORPD. The city attorney responded that the courts did not rule in favor of the family and that concluded our obligation to them.
  • Ms. Laurie Paine requested clarification about what the City Council understood about the BOE’s budget and their intentions to cut transportation to some 1,800 students. In addition to my fellow councilmember’s comments that council has no authority to tell the BOE how to spend funds, I explained that the BOE requested a significant increase to fund their technology initiative (of giving a tablet to every student.) When council declined their request, they changed their focus and blamed council for their unwillingness to fund teacher raises. Now, certain BOE members are blaming council for cutting transportation. I went on to explain that per Dr. Borcher’s original  FY15_Proposed_Budget051414web, in all three scenarios, each of which requested a tax increase ranging from 14-57 cents) transportation was a planned cut. So, even if council had given them every penny they demanded, they still planned to cut transportation.
  • Dr. Jim Horton repeated his concerns that the city did not admit to the total financial loss incurred by moving the tax due date by one month.
  • Sarah Staggs spoke about her concerns regarding the BOE’s decision to cut transportation. She commented that her children would have to pass by the homes of two sex offenders and questioned if anyone considered this in the decision.

 As a side note, I received this communication Mahathy Transportation Email during our 5+ hour meeting. My response is self-explanatory, but it is worth pointing out here that this man has indicated that he will be running for BOE this year.   

VII. CONSENT AGENDA  11 items passed by unanimous vote

g. Resolution awarding a bid to Graybar, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the furnishing of a replacement motor control center for the East Plant Sewer Pump Station in the estimated amount of $82,600

h. Resolution awarding a bid to Nixon Power Services Company, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the furnishing of a replacement generator and automatic transfer switch for the East Plant Sewer Pump Station in the estimated amount of $94,500

i. Resolution awarding a contract (FY2015-003) to Rogers Group, Inc., oak ridge, Tennessee, for the resurfacing of a portion of west bear creek road in the estimated amount of $48,571 (50% funded by a 2006 EPA grant; concludes a 12 year moved water line project)

NOTE: I requested that this item be removed for discussion. I restated my question from an email I sent the city manager last week: Of the 31 awarded bids (totaling over $4M) in the last five years to this company, how many came in over bid?  Mr. Watson replied that they could only verify that the last four came in at or under bid. He expressed frustrations about my request and indicated that it was very time consuming. I suggested that to be indicative of poor records management. Mayor Beehan and Councilman Hensley expressed support for Mr. Watson’s frustrations and threatened that future requests may need to be put to a vote. I reminded both gentleman that my request originated with a citizen inquiry and that such information is subject to the open records law.

j. Resolution authorizing a professional services agreement with Consolidated Technologies, Inc., (CTI), Knoxville, Tennessee, for engineering services for the East Tennessee Technology Park K-1530 Potable Water Storage Tank Rehabilitation, modification, and repainting project in the estimated amount of $86,800

k. Resolution authorizing the City to continue participation in the East Tennessee Economic Development Agency, with annual membership dues in the amount of $26,116 for the 2014 calendar year. (TVA pays back half of this amount)

VIII. PUBLIC HEARINGS AND READING OF ORDINANCES

a. An ordinance amending the FY15 budget passed last month to account for an adjustment in the West End Fund and an unclear BOE adjustment. Motion passed on first reading 6-1 with Baughn voting “Nay”

Note: After much discussion, the finance director could not provide a before and after total city appropriations amount that would result from this change; nor could she provide a total amount of the BOE amount after council amended the budget on first reading last month. I noted that we were amending a finalized budget without having been provided a copy of the final budget to compare to. I made a motion to divide the question; motion failed 6-1.  

b. An ordinance amending Title 15, Chapter 5 to eliminate the option for violators of traffic laws in school zones to attend defensive driving and thus have the infraction possibly expunged from their driving record. Motion passed 7-0

c. An ordinance amending Title 15, Chapter 5 to require motorist to come to a complete stop at crosswalks in a school zone until a pedestrian has fully left the crosswalk; also requires pedestrians to use bridges and tunnels when available to cross a roadway.Note: Both adjustments were made to align with state law.Motion passed 7-0

VIII. RESOLUTIONS

Addition: Councilmember Hensley introduced an amended resolution to the one previously passed by council on 5/12/14 to make improvements to the Blankenship field lower parking lot. For similar reasons as before, I could not support this resolution. First, the source of funding is the Red Light Camera fund which is quickly dwindling and is supposed to be used for safety improvements to the benefit of student pedestrians. Second, this project began with the schools’ request to replace bleachers. Their final request to council was for $69K to fund a handicap access ramp. The May proposal, brought forward by Mayor Beehan significantly added to the cost and scope up to $180K and now this one, which tops out at $250K, still does not clearly lay out the proposed changes. Motion passed 5-1-1 with Baughn abstaining and Garland voting “Nay”

a. Amendment to the MOU with DOE for Fire Protection and Emergency response Services at ETTP. Motion passed 7-0

b. Resolution Resolution awarding a contract to Cannon & Cannon and Fulghum, Macindoe and Associates for $350,000 for sewer remediation projects Motion passed 6-1 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.

c. Resolution awarding a contract to the Ferguson Group to conduct a community impact assessment of the DOE proposed Nuclear Landfill project in the amount of $69,000. Motion passed 5-2 with Baughn and Garland voting “Nay”

Note: Though the documentation listed 5 respondents to the bid, the lowest bidder was marked as “non-responsive.” The range of bids was $40K-$280K. There were a number of conflicting statements made by staff as to who participated in the assessment phase, how the decision was made and why the lowest bidder was deemed nonresponsive.  

See past minutes like this one or click on the tag “waived bids” for explanations on waived competitive bids.

d. Resolution waiving competitive bids and awarding future tree removal contracts to various companies as needed up to $30,000. Motion passed 7-0

e. Resolution waiving competitive bids and awarding future emergency street resurfacing contracts various companies up to $175,000Motion passed 7-0

f. Resolution waiving competitive bids and awarding future heavy equipment rental contracts various companies up to $75,000Motion passed 7-0

g. Resolution waiving competitive bids and awarding biosolids removal contract to Waste Management up to $85,000Motion passed 7-0

h. Resolution waiving competitive bids and awarding unleaded and diesel fuel contract to Mansfield Oil up to $683,000Motion passed 7-0

i. Resolution waiving competitive bids and awarding ABB brand cutouts contract to HD Supply Power Solutions and other suitable qualified providers $35,000Motion passed 7-0

j. Resolution waiving competitive bids and awarding chemicals contract to “best providers” up to $300,000Motion passed 7-0 Note: Citizen TJ Garland spoke to the potential harms caused by fluoridated water and requested that council consider a future discussion on the matter since all other countries have eliminated fluoride treatment of public water supplies. Four councilmembers supported the idea of discussing the matter.

k. Resolution awarding various bids for a variety of furnishings totaling no more than $1,419,739Motion passed 7-0

l. Resolution amending the 1968 lease agreement with the Chamber of Commerce to eliminate the prohibition on political activities.  Motion passed 7-0-1 with Baughn abstaining.

Note: Regrettably, this amendment provided the opportunity for a long-overdue discussion at the literal 11th hour (it was after 11:00p.m. when it was brought to the floor).  I pointed out the agreement was re-affirmed in 2002 for a 36 year term and locked the city into a lease that slights the taxpayer since the city leases the land to the Chamber at an unreasonably low rate of less than $700 per year. The lot sits on a prime location in the center of town. My vote on the political activities amendment was based on a lack of clarity regarding the implications of such a change.

XI. ELECTIONS/APPOINTMENTS/ANNOUNCEMENTS

Mid-Year Elections to City Boards and Commissions

  • Yager and Vaughen appointed by acclamation to the Board of Building and Housing Coe of Appeals
  • Dodson appointed to the CVB by acclamation
  • Cox elected to the OR Housing Authority
  • Clayton and Spears elected to the Recreation and Parks Advisory Board

XIII. SUMMARY OF CURRENT EVENTS

The city manager expressed a desire for council to support his state department-funded trip to Indonesia at a cost to the local taxpayer of two weeks’ pay. (He would like to be paid while representing the city on this trip). Last month, I questioned Mr. Watson’s frequent travel and asked him to verify or refute my belief that he is taking trips at the taxpayer’s expense of up to 10-15 trips per year costing up to $60,000. I invited him to provide council with an annual report of his travels much like the one the city clerk provides on council travels. He has yet to provide that report and, instead, offered to take leave for this particular trip. The mayor, members Miller, Hope and Hensley all objected to Mr. Watson’s offer and indicated a desire for him to be paid salary on the trip.

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7 thoughts on “7/14/14 OAK RIDGE CITY COUNCIL MEETING SUMMARY

  1. I hope that changes can be made to the 30 second vote process. I am sure there are tweaks to the system needed as it was the first time using the new mic and voting system. If these changes are made the meeting last night would have been shorter.

    Thank you

    1. I agree. My personal preference is to allow the clerk to reveal the votes once they’ve all been cast. I believe the ultimate decision is up to the chair, though.

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