By Linda Kor
The City of Holbrook seated three new council members Tuesday evening after they were sworn in by Judge Evelyn Marez.
Tim Dixon, Francie Payne and CJ Wischmann took their seats, replacing outgoing councilmen Phil Cobb, Charles Haussman and Bobbie Tyler. While Tyler vacated his council seat, he is now the mayor, taking the place of Jeff Hill.
With the new council in place, their first order of business was to unanimously select Wade Carlisle to serve as vice mayor.
The council then moved to a review of the upcoming budget, with the discussion focusing on the police and fire departments, library, lodger’s tax, water and fleet maintenance.
Librarian Wendy Skevington first addressed the board, informing them of the proposed changes to the library budget. She noted that a part-time position at the library was added for $24,596. This position was formerly funded by a grant to provide job services for residents, and has proven to be a valuable service to the community.
Skevington also made a request to add security cameras for the library, which has experienced a number of break-ins in the past. While there is a security system in place, it is an inside sound alarm. The cameras would help to identify perpetrators committing the acts outside the building, and would notify police and city officials on their smart phones if a break-in is taking place. The cost for the additional security is estimated at $4,000.
Regarding the police department, Chief Mark Jackson explained some increases include $4,000 to cover training costs for the four newest officers and a $7,000 increase in order to maintain his aging patrol fleet, several of which have needed transmission replacements due to age. He also noted a $42,764 increase to salaries, plus insurance and retirement, for a sergeant’s position that was filled earlier this year.
A big hit to the police department budget will be an increase in retirement costs to the tune of $200,000 for the coming year. “This is not something that we have any say in,” stated Finance Director Randy Sullivan, explaining that it’s the result of a lawsuit that the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System lost in which they have to pay a $10 million settlement, and it is being split between the cities.
Chief Jackson explained that he was also going to be purchasing two new Ram 1500 quad cab special service vehicles, but was hoping to make that purchase in the current budget year. “We have an opportunity for an $8,000 savings if we purchase those in this budget year, so if possible, we are trying to work that out,” he explained, adding that if that could not be arranged it would be added to the upcoming budget.
In the fleet management department there will be a slight decrease of $4,000 because of the hiring of a new employee at a lesser salary than the previous employee.
There were no changes to the fire department budget.
Sullivan provided the council with a three-year budget history of the lodger’s tax, which showed that since 2013 the increase in the tax has been minimal, going from $164,131 in 2013 to $164,449 in 2014, with 2015 numbers expected to be about the same.
Councilwoman Payne stated that from what she understood the city had agreements with the chamber of commerce and the historical society that required accountability for the lodger’s tax funds supplied to them, and asked if there was an agreement in place with the fair board.
“I’m not against providing the funds to the fair board, but if we’re demanding accountability from the others, then it should be the same for them,” she said.
Sullivan stated that it would be a decision to be made by the council and Alley agreed, stating that if that took place, a line item would be added to the budget detailing the use of funds provided to the fair board.
A review of revenues showed that utility revenues projected for the coming year showed a significant year-to-date drop from last year. The projected revenues for the year were set at $2.4 million, but the actual revenues through May posted at $1.4 million. It was noted by Sullivan that the low temperatures and increased moisture over the past couple of months may be accounting for some of that loss, and that the expected warmer temperatures may change that.
“We usually set aside $50,000 in water and wastewater, but since it’s so low we couldn’t afford it this budget. I’m creating a new line in the budget for contingency so if there is a major repair that is needed it will have to come out as an emergency, but only if it’s a huge issue,” stated Sullivan.
In discussing losses, Alley told the council that he would like to list the loan made to the Holbrook Senior Citizens Center as a liability on the city ledgers.
The loan was made in 2011 in order for the center to pay off a debt owed to the Internal Revenue Service for back taxes. The center lacked the funds to pay the amount in full and as a result was accruing costly penalty fees. The city paid the debt and the center was paying the interest-free loan back at a rate of $545 per month, but for the past year has not had funds to make the payment.
“The payment has not been enforced because they really don’t have the money and we don’t want to hurt them. I want to list it as a liability and wait until they have the funds to pay it in the future. They are keeping current with the IRS, so that’s what’s really important,” explained Alley.
Councilman Richard Peterson commented that something formal should be done to avoid setting a precedent for the future.
Alley agreed, adding that he would have something for the council to review at the next meeting.
The council will be hearing from the remaining departments regarding their budgets at the June 9 meeting.
Alley also reported on the splash park under construction behind the city offices. He anticipates that it will be complete by the second week in June and noted that by having the city do the work, it was a huge cost savings. “The bid for just the pad would have been $300,000, but we were able to do the entire park for $160,000,” he explained.
He also requested an amendment to the contract regarding the splash pad that would require an additional $15,480 from the general fund for the purchase of cool decking in the amount of $7,500 from Splash Zone and the remaining funds to be used to purchase four additional toy enhancements for the park. The council authorized the amendment.
In other business, the council also awarded a contract to Quality Ready Mix to provide and transport concrete for ongoing street renovations.
Alley explained that there was an increase of cost of $1.50 per yard, but that the company was the only one that responded to the bid announcement and that he felt they were the only company able to keep up with the demands of the projects.
Also approved was a $99,940 contract with AJP Electric for the airport electrical project.
Prior to the transition from the old council to the new, the council voted to approve an intergovernmental agreement with Navajo County for the services of the magistrate court clerk in the amount of $41,480 effective until June 2016.
Alley explained that for the cost involved, it was well worth it. “Back in the 1980s we were paying around $90,000 to employ our own people to do this work; this is not something we could match,” he stated.
A canvass of the recent council election was also approved and showed that 440 votes were cast and 20 were rejected. The final results showed Tim Dixon with 306 votes and David Newlin with 131.