The city council meeting on January 7th did not offer any new information on the search for the money that city administrator Tommy Turney is tracking down. At last count in December, $192,000 was still being searched for. The Texas Rangers, Ranger Jason Shea, is still involved in tracking down the money.
There has been an auditor going through the books to help the city fine tune their bookkeeping and to help see if he can find out if the missing money was absorbed into the general fund at some point. He had not finished his work yet and is expected to take another week or two. There has been nothing new about the $225,000 grant and whether or not the city received the money or paid back money. That will surely come out and can be clarified in the investigation by either Turney or Shea.
The city adopted new sanitation collection rates. Ballinger is still cheaper than other cities and only some of the rates are going up, but not by much. One rate that is changing for the better is the tractor tire disposal. Previously it had cost $75 to dispose of a tractor tire but now it’s been reduced to $10 per tire. Oil filters were not accepted previously but now they will at a cost $1 for each filter and the oil will be charged .25 cents per gallon. Likewise, shingles were not an item that was accepted but now they will be accepted at a rate of $15 per cubic yard.
The hours of the recycling center are changing. They will no longer be open on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The new hours are:
Friday 8 a.m. – 12 p.m and 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
People were not dropping off items on Monday, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays so keeping it open during those days didn’t make sense. Jack Watkins and Turney came up with the new schedule and the council adopted the proposal. Now there will be people at the recycling center when most of the citizens are doing their work around home on the weekends. Watkins has worked diligently to improve the city’s recycling efforts and has done fine work in getting things going on the right track.
Ballinger police chief Stan Maresch gave the final numbers for 2018; The police department responded to 4,118 calls for service, responded to 92 accidents, made 142 arrests and wrote 886 citations which resulted in almost $86,000 in traffic fines.
A collection agency was hired to collect on outstanding debts of utility bills and court fines. For court fines, the agency will keep 30% of the recovered amount and for utility bills, the company will add on an additional $30 charge for collection.
The city passed a motion to award a contract to Hibbs and Todd to conduct a survey of the airport property in order for the city to enter the 2019/2020 TxDOT maintenance program. The survey will cost $3000. Bids from other companies came in at $6000 and $4500, respectively.
One item on the agenda was the water agreement between Ballinger and Abilene. Ballinger will receive a grant that was applied for in their name by Abilene for $2.4 million dollars and will receive a $1,000,000 loan. The combined $3.4 million dollars goes towards designing the new plant in Abilene. That money does not include the cost of building the plant or installing the pipeline. The item was tabled when councilwoman Kristi Goetz said that she wasn’t comfortable voting on it either way since she had not seen all of the information. Councilman Jason Gore agreed and so they tabled it until they have a meeting and can go over all of the information. This all has to be done soon because the cut off date for some of the money is January 31st. There is much more to this water agreement, more than can be written here in a short brief. A full-length story regarding the water agreement will be in the newspaper next week.
The city staff is working to update the capital equipment inventory. All equipment over $5000 must be inventoried. Give the financial situation brought on by previous councils and the previous city administrator it was not surprising to learn that an inventory had not been done since 2006. That’s 12 years of no quality control or oversight regarding expensive city equipment. Turney expects the inventory to be completed by January 15th.
The Plaza Fountain improvement project is in the planning phase. The expected cost is $10,000 but Mrs. Dankworth, who donated the location originally, said that she’d pay half of the cost.