City Council Update, 12/17/2018
There was not any updated news on the missing city CD money. But there is progress being made as city administrator Tommy Turney pointed out, “We’ve hired the auditor come in and he is currently in the middle of running a diagnostic. It has two goals; first, it will look at our finances and lets us know what exactly is being spent and where it is being spent. It will look at our past history as well. Secondly, it will look at our processes to see if we need to change or rearrange things. It will help us make changes, establish checkpoints throughout our process and form new standard operating procedures.”
The auditor started looking into the finances last week and Turney should have a better idea of where things stand at the next council meeting in January. No current news on the Rangers investigation has been made available and no timetable for a completion of the investigation has been given. We only know that the Freedom of Information Act letters I sent will be reviewed in late March 2019.
In the last two weeks there were rumblings around town about city attorney Pat Chesser because Chesser is also the Willow Park city attorney, where former Ballinger city administrator Bryan Grimes is the current city manager. Chesser’s character and ethics have never come into question and Jeff Smith, the general manager of KRUN radio station, asked for some clarification on one particular issue. It was a question that has been tossed around the last few weeks and recently gained some momentum so Smith decided to step up and address the council.
Smith asked Chesser if him being the current city manager for Ballinger while also being the city manager for Willow Park would cause a conflict of interest due to the Texas Rangers’ investigation.
Chesser clarified that he is not Grimes’ personal attorney and that there is no conflict. Chesser is the city attorney for at least 7 cities. He said that it would only be a conflict of interest if the city of Ballinger sued another city he worked for because that would cause a conflict of interest since he represents both cities.
Even with the Ranger investigation no one is saying that any money was stolen or misappropriated. It’s still missing but hopefully the accountant will be able to make heads and tails with the audit and find the money. It would not behoove anyone in the city for the money to come up as stolen and I have not heard anyone mention otherwise. Administrative, accounting and other errors can be rectified and the city can move forward much more easily than if the money were somehow stolen.
The current city council is proactive and they ask questions, hard questions and don’t just accept any run-of-the-mill answer. When a question is answered, it is answered in-depth and concisely, without fluff. Turney will not give an answer he is not 100% sure of. Turney enjoys strong support from the council and has made great strides in making the city a better place. He has started working on roads and has hired a grant administration company to help get grants for road and street repairs. Also, the city is beginning a recycling program.
During the previous council meeting Turney informed the council that he had started a new procedure for travel. The procedure set a level on the daily rate for food and also addressed lodging. The forms for any travel must be submitted at least 3 days before the travel and receive approval. Turney has taken a strong hand with the overtime and in managing the payroll, as demonstrated by the 67% decrease in overtime between October and November.
The city council has christened councilwoman Kristi Brundige-Goetz to chair a committee looking into the city charter to see if there are changes that need to happen and thus will require voting on in November 2019.
Rick Morrish is a great deal of work with the hotel/motel committee and working to more effectively bring in visitors and keep track of “heads in beds.”
Bob McDaniel is very in-tune with the citizenry and addresses issues during every council meeting. McDaniel is the one who originally brought up the CD issue.
Jason Gore’s attention to detail often catches things that the council might miss and he studies the reports given to the council before the meetings.
Mayor Sam Mallory has done a competent job of mediating council meeting discussions and keeping everyone focused on the issues at hand.
There has still been no input from former council members who believe that they know where the CD money went. There has also been no updated news on the $225,000 grant so we don’t know whether that money was received or not and if it was received, where did it go? The general fund is the most likely place but until they can find the records that show that we won’t know for sure.
At the city council meeting Jack Watkins briefed the council on a new recycling program. The city passed a motion to apply for a 2019 Municipal Solid Waste grant. The city will apply for a portion of $34,000 awarded by the West Central Texas Council Of Governments. That money will go towards equipment for the recycling program, which is expected to cost in the area of $10,000. The first phase of the program will be recycling cardboard. The city will purchase a pallet jack and some trailers for collecting the cardboard. Watkins said that the city would be starting with cardboard because it’s the easiest material to collect and store. Once that program is underway the city will venture out to copy-grade paper and then onto mixed paper from there.
Watkins said that the city will start with some educational programs at the schools and encourage students to bring in cardboard. Watkins said it would help reduce waste for the landfill, “We will have about a 40% waste reduction over the next 3-5 years. That is approximately 300 tons of material, which will save us $13,500. Additionally, the city is expected to generate approximately $27,000 in revenue from the cardboard. Later on they will start collecting cans and other metals. When you add up the saved revenue to the new revenue generated, it’s a swing of $40,500, which is substantial. Watkins has done significant research into this program and had all of his material and information well laid out and it was concise. His presentation was thorough even in just the few minutes he addressed the council.
In other council news
In the previous city report the Streets division had 52 work orders. During this period they had 117 work orders, completed 110 and have 7 still in progress.
The Water department previously has 23 work orders, 51 new work orders were generated this period, 39 were completed and 12 are still in progress.
Property maintenance previously had 34 work orders with 11 new ones this period with 9 completed and 2 still in progress.
City overtime had a reduction of 67% this reporting period.
In November the city workers completed 12,435 safe man-hours worked.
The next city council meeting will be on January 7th at city hall at 5:30 p.m.