High­fill pays un­bud­geted bills

Westside Eagle-Observer - - FRONT PAGE - By Randy Moll rmoll@nwadg.com

HIGH­FILL — It was clear at the Sept. 12 coun­cil meet­ing that coun­cil mem­bers were not pleased about the need to take money out of the city’s gen­eral sav­ings to pay for un­bud­geted ex­pen­di­tures of the High­fill Po­lice De­part­ment, and the coun­cil balked at giv­ing the mayor per­mis­sion to au­tho­rize departments to ex­ceed bud­get line items so long as the departments do not ex­ceed their to­tal bud­gets.

With no old busi­ness and no new busi­ness, Stacy Digby, High­fill’s mayor, gave his re­port and re­quested the coun­cil au­tho­rize him to take money from the city’s gen­eral sav­ings to pay po­lice de­part­ment bills for mod­i­fi­ca­tions to three mil­i­tary ri­fles so they could be used by the po­lice de­part­ment and for re­build­ing, up­dat­ing and ex­pand­ing the po­lice de­part­ment’s servers. Digby said the city had bills for $1,080.50 for the mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the three mil­i­tary ri­fles and ap­prox­i­mately $3,000 for the work on po­lice de­part­ment servers. Digby said he au­tho­rized the needed work on the servers, think­ing the po­lice de­part­ment had money in its bud­get to cover the ex­pense but it didn’t.

Digby said the city had the bills for the work which the po­lice de­part­ment could not pay from its bud­get and the bills need to be paid.

Though coun­cil mem­bers were slow to make a mo­tion on the mat­ter, Coun­cil­man Roger Hill said, “We’ve got to pay it.”

When the vote was taken, it nar­rowly passed, with Digby cast­ing a vote to make a ma­jor­ity since Toby Lester was ab­sent. David Wil­liamson and Mark White op­posed the mea­sure. Hill, Michelle Reiff and Wes­ley Evans voted in fa­vor of it.

Then, when Digby asked the coun­cil to au­tho­rize de­part­ment heads to be al­lowed to ex­ceed spend­ing in line items so long as they do not ex­ceed their to­tal

bud­gets, coun­cil mem­bers balked and fi­nally tabled the re­quest, ask­ing that it be added to the old busi­ness at the Oc­to­ber meet­ing.

Digby said he feared that coun­cil mem­bers trusted some de­part­ment heads more than oth­ers, and Ri­eff said she re­sented the re­mark and said her hes­i­tancy had noth­ing to do with trust­ing de­part­ment heads.

Wil­liamson said he wanted departments to stay within their over­all bud­gets but also wanted to know how money was spent via line items in the bud­get.

James “Butch” Wiand ex­plained that his de­part­ment, the city’s wa­ter and sewer de­part­ment, was some­what unique in that it re­quired him to spend money on things such as me­ters and ad­di­tional amounts of wa­ter to bring in rev­enue through wa­ter sales or wa­ter and sewer hookups. He said in­com­ing money for new con­nec­tion fees went into his wa­ter rev­enue ac­count and no pro­vi­sion was made to add money to line items for wa­ter pur­chases or for new me­ters. He also said he needed to pur­chase air relief valves for the sewer sys­tem — at a cost of ap­prox­i­mately $10,000 — be­cause they need to be re­placed and a fail­ure could shut down the whole sys­tem. He said he had the money to buy them but it was not in the line item be­cause the needed re­pair was not an­tic­i­pated.

Wiand also said he had re­ceived a pay­ment of a lit­tle more than $40,000 to hook up 49 me­ters at a new sub­di­vi­sion. He said the me­ters cost the city $200 each and he needed the dis­cre­tion to be able to use a por­tion of the in­com­ing money to pay for new me­ters and ad­di­tional wa­ter even if it is not in the bud­get line item. He fur­ther ex­plained that he needed the dis­cre­tion to ex­ceed line items to make un­fore­seen re­pairs and for new con­nec­tions but that he wouldn’t spend money he didn’t have in his over­all bud­get. The me­ter fees at con­trac­tor’s rate were $550 each be­cause ev­ery­thing is ready for the city to put in and con­nect the wa­ter me­ter. Nor­mal rates are $950 per me­ter, he said.

Wiand said he had enough me­ters in stock but needed to re­place those me­ters since they were pur­chased to be changed out with older me­ters not fully com­pat­i­ble with the city’s new Nep­tune wa­ter ser­vice soft­ware.

Dis­cussed but post­poned un­til the be­gin­ning of the new year and a new bud­get was adding a wa­ter de­part­ment em­ployee to help Wiand with calls and ser­vice due to the ad­di­tional hookups and new wa­ter cus­tomers in sub­di­vi­sions now un­der con­struc­tion. Wiand an­tic­i­pated his in­com­ing rev­enue would be enough to pay the cost of a new em­ployee and said he is now not us­ing all the money he could from the city’s sales and use taxes and he hopes his de­part­ment will soon be self-sup­port­ing and free up sales tax money for use by other departments that did not gen­er­ate their own rev­enue.

Ac­cord­ing to Wiand and Digby, the city would also need to look at ex­tend­ing wa­ter ser­vice to the east side of the airport in the near fu­ture be­cause of growth and ex­pan­sion in that por­tion of the city.

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