Jun 172011

By Teri Walker–

The City of Holbrook coffers are fuller than expected, City Manager Ray Alley and Finance Director Randy Sullivan reported during the regular meeting of the Holbrook City Council Tuesday evening.

In a report of the April financials, Sullivan said the city’s savings have increased in the past year by $213,560 and tax revenues are above projections by $86,000. He attributed the higher-than-expected tax revenues to improvements in the economy.

“With all the projects that we’ve gotten done this year, we’ve still managed to set some back,” said Sullivan.

Some of those projects have included drilling a new city well, and street, water and wastewater improvement projects. The increases in savings are also in spite of decreased funding from the state and some grant programs.

Alley complimented Sullivan, asserting the city’s financials are strong because Sullivan takes a conservative budgeting approach while recognizing the need to still “get things done.” Alley said his goal is for the city to set aside $2 million in savings.

The financial report was a precursor to a budget work session that followed the regular council meeting, during which Alley and Sullivan presented the latest revisions to the draft fiscal year 2012 budget, which the council anticipates finalizing on June 28.

Sullivan also reported that Al Holler & Associates, the accounting firm contracted to conduct sales tax audits for the city, has been paid $20,000 so far this year, and has collected almost $74,000 in delinquent sales tax, with additional collection activity still under way.

Mayor Jeff Hill reported on several meetings he has participated in recently, noting that earlier in the day he and Alley met with a representative of Prospect Global Resources, Inc., which describes itself as an exploration stage company engaged in the exploration and mining of potash in the Holbrook Basin.

Prospect states on its website that its business strategy is “to grow stockholder value primarily through the exploration and development of potash located in the Holbrook Basin of eastern Arizona.”

Hill said Prospect’s president, Pat Avery, expressed that so far, the company likes what they’re seeing as they undertake their exploration.

“Both Passport Potash (another company exploring the Holbrook Basin) and Global Resource are still in the discovery phase. They’re both still interested, still out there, and spending lots of money,” said Hill. “We’re guardedly hopeful, we encourage them, and we welcome them.”

Hill also reported that he is a member of the Public Intoxication Ad Hoc Committee, a function of the Arizona State Legislature, which is exploring options for effectively dealing with public intoxication in the state. Hill said he is sharing information with Holbrook Police Chief Mark Jackson for his consideration of possible ordinances that could be crafted to address public intoxication in Holbrook. Hill will attend a follow up committee meeting on the topic on July 11.

Finally, Hill addressed a letter to the editor that appeared in the June 3 edition of The Tribune-News, written by Holbrook resident Kip Woolford, who is retired from the U.S. Navy. In his letter, Woolford said, “I drove around the town of Holbrook around 9 a.m. on May 30 (Memorial Day) and I hung my head in shame! I quickly realized that not a single city or county flag was being flown at half-mast…

“More shamefully, the Holbrook Cemetery, where, I observed the Holbrook American Legion Honor Guard at 11 a.m. proudly rendering their respect to our fallen comrades. (stet) There were just a handful of people from the community in attendance, unfortunately, I did not recognize any Holbrook city officials in attendance.”

Woolford noted that Memorial Day is one of three days each year when the American flag is designated to fly at half-mast, and went on to say, “Holbrook city officials: Do you feel the Day of Shame? Because you sure haven’t shown any due respect!”

Hill responded to Woolford, who was in attendance at the council meeting, that while he was initially angered by Woolford’s letter, “my anger turned to shame, then appreciation.”

Hill said his personal commitment next year, if he can’t attend a commemorative service on Memorial Day, will be to just stop and remember the sacrifice of the military on the country’s behalf.

He also said he didn’t know why the city flags weren’t flown at half-mast, but would look into the issue and ensure that on those occasions the flag should be flown at half-mast, it will happen in the future.

Councilman Richard Peterson commented that it’s unfortunate when people feel the need to “ascribe motivations or deficiencies” to others, referencing Woolford’s assertion that city council members should be ashamed they didn’t show proper respect on Memorial Day. “It’s nobody’s business what I did on that day,” he said, adding that people shouldn’t make assumptions about his respect for the day based on the fact that he wasn’t present at a particular ceremony.

“My father went to war, I went to war, my son went to war. You shouldn’t ascribe motivation or deficiencies,” Peterson reiterated.

Following Hill, Alley presented the city manager’s report, including updates on infrastructure and community improvement projects.

Alley said the sewage lift station removal is almost complete on Seventh Street, and expressed appreciation for residents’ patience for the three-month project.

He noted that two more buildings are scheduled to be torn down as part of the city’s abatement program, including a residence on Georgia Street and a mobile home on McLaws Road. The abatement program is the city’s effort to get rid of derelict buildings.

Alley also reported that he is still seeking a proposal from City Engineer Caleb Lanting for completion of a flow study, which would assess the city’s sewer system capacity and potential problem areas, should the city grow in the future.

The tennis court rehabilitation project at Hunt Park is moving forward, Alley said. New fencing will soon be erected, and plans are to resurface the basketball courts once fencing is complete.

Alley also shared that a Catholic youth group will be coming to Holbrook on June 27 to conduct a service project. Thirty-six youth and six adults will spend three days painting, weeding and repairing cemetery and park facilities. Alley is working with Parks and Recreation Director Napo Baldonado to coordinate the service project.

The council approved a number of actions during the meeting, including:

* Issuing a special event liquor license to the Navajo County Fair, which will take place Sept. 14 to 18;

* Awarding the bid for concrete, gravel (ABC) and slurry for street improvement projects in fiscal year 2012 to lowest bidder Quality Ready Mix of Snowflake;

* Awarding the request for proposals for city auditing activities to Colby & Powell, PLC, of Gilbert, in the amount of $23,800 if a single audit is required, or $21,800 if a single audit is not required;

* Expending funds in an amount not to exceed $1,019 for A to Z Drilling of Taylor to complete the newly drilled well on McLaws Road, tying it in to the new pump. Alley estimates the well will be in service within three months;

* Accepting a memorandum of understanding among the city, the Holbrook Chamber of Commerce and the Navajo County Historical Society related to the operation of the Old Navajo County Courthouse and the chamber of commerce. The memorandum outlines that the historical society will provide reception duties at the courthouse seven days a week, including holidays, and the city will provide an employee four days a week to work at the chamber. Emily Wheeler, currently an employee of the Holbrook Police Department, will share her time between the chamber of commerce and the police department. The term of the agreement is from July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2014.

The city will give the historical society $28,800 and the chamber $26,000 from lodgers tax funds to cover the operation costs.

* Approving a monthly maintenance agreement in the amount of $265 per month with YESCO of Chandler to maintain the marquee sign at Gillespie Park. YESCO will not program the sign, but will maintain all of the computer, lighting and other technical systems required to operate it.

* Approving payment of monthly invoices in the amount of $124,750.41.

The next meeting of the Holbrook City Council is scheduled at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 28.