Ryan Lange was appointed to the Ballinger City Council on Thursday, January 23rd. Lange will take over in Single Member District 2, the position vacated by former councilman Bob McDaniel who resigned, along with councilman Jason Gore, on January 6th.
The January 23rd council meeting began with the nomination of people to fill the council position. Lange was the second person to speak, “My name is Ryan Lange. Most of you know me through the funeral home but my background is actually in finance. I worked as a financial advisor for a while in Abilene. I’m not worried about the past (of Ballinger), but where we go from here. I’m not saying that I can fix anything overnight but I feel that I would be an asset in moving forward and getting us back on track.”
Also considered were Mike Riley, Chad McDuffee, Steve Gray and Chad Hardy.
McDuffee is a veteran who served 11 years in the army and a respected Ballinger schoolteacher. Local businessman Chad Hardy also spoke about filling the position. Hardy said that he moved to Ballinger in 2014 but he spent several years here with his family over the summers. Hardy’s family is from Ballinger. He spoke about what he considers important, “I believe honesty, integrity and transparency over all other things.” Hardy has 3 college degrees: B.S. in Computer Science, a B.S. degree in Physics and a Masters degree in Educational Technology. Also up for consideration was Steve Gray, owner of Ballinger Printing. Gray said that he felt any of the others under consideration would be a good choice but wanted to throw his hat in the ring. “I’ve managed and now owned and operated business here in town for twenty-two years. I have a vested interest in going forward just as well as most everybody else here does.”
Councilman Rick Morrish made a motion to nominate Mike Riley for the council seat but no one seconded it. The motion failed. Councilwoman Kristi Goetz made a motion to nominate Lange, which was seconded by councilman Jeff Smith. The vote was counted and Lange was appointed to the council seat after being sworn in by city secretary Bonita Shields. Mayor Dawni Seymore thanked everyone who offered to fill the seat, “I would like to say thank you to each and every person who threw their hat in the ring. A couple of you took me by surprise. I appreciate your willingness to stand up and offer to help and I hope that you continue that from this day forward.”
Interim city manager Sidney “Buck” LaQuey sought permission to sell off some surplus city equipment. He said that the bulldozer is in disrepair and had cost the city approximately $130,000. Now the repairs are estimated to be in the $20,000 - $25,000 range. The city also has a road grader that has a 14’ blade, which Barrett Smith, head of the streets department, said is too wide to go down alleys. LaQuey said that Yellow House is supposed to come by and give them a price on purchasing it. The city also has a Bomag pad roller that LaQuey said is too heavy for some of the jobs and is crushing the underlying utilities. LaQuey said that they need a smaller roller. The Bomag roller that the city purchased was for $80,000. LaQuey said that they wanted to work with the mayor directly to, “Make our cases for what we can keep and what we can’t. The goal is to raise money from the equipment that we’re not using to both defray both some of the AP that is in arrears and buy equipment that we’ll actually use. A 10’ blade would be nice because it can get it up and down the alleys.” LaQuey also said that they’re offering the city $65,000 for the bulldozer.
LaQuey said that Seymore talked to Yellow House and that they’re offering to take the excavator back for, “Almost what we paid for it.” The city purchased/leased it for $125,000 from Yellow House.” The city will get also get a credit for $5000 for the insurance on the excavator. Councilman Jeff Smith said that he wanted to make sure that the city did have what it needed, basically less equipment and smaller equipment, but adequate equipment to do the work needed around the city. LaQuey said that Yellow House is offering trade-in prices but that other bids were being offered for more than what Yellow House is offering. Morrish said that he had no problem with selling the equipment as long as they replaced it with equipment that the city would own. Yellow House offered $180,000 for all 3 pieces of equipment, the Bomag, the dozer and the excavator. Seymore said that they were in talks with Yellow House but were also in talks with the other person who had put in bids. The motion to sell the surplus equipment was passed.
Also on the agenda was creating an investment policy for the city. LaQuey spoke about the importance of having an investment policy, “I know it seems strange to request that we get an investment policy in place when we have nothing to invest right now. However, if the policy is in place, either me or whoever is in my place, will have the authority to invest the funds as needed if they are earning funds that are not needed for operations. What the policy states is what you can invest in, which basically is what I put in the policy.” LaQuey went on to say that the options would be investments such as TexStar and TexPool. He said it would be like a mutual fund that is limited to states, counties and cities, “You’re not going out and investing derivatives or something strange. That’s why the investment policy is in place.” The policy adheres to the Public Funds Investment Act. LaQuey said that it’s extremely conservative. In his opinion, it would be better than investing in CDs locally. The policy would detail what the city manager can and can’t invest the city’s funds into. The policy would be approved annually and the city council will form an investment advisory committee. The motion to approve the policy passed.
The city council approved the appointment of 2 new park board members, Suzanne Torres and Mary Dallas.
Later in the meeting LaQuey gave the city manager’s bi-weekly report. His report mainly regarded the current financial situation; ”It had been requested of me to provide you with, ‘Where are we right now.’ So it’s more like, ‘What’s in the person’s who pays the bills head,’ of how much cash do I have on hand and what am I gonna pay because obviously we can’t pay everything that is in arrears right now. I want to say a couple of things about that. A person’s level of comfort with debt and outstanding debt is based upon their philosophy. What I would say is that the board here saved you in a really tough time. It was like you were in a little Wells Fargo stagecoach there and 12 horses were running away. The horses are the debt. If you can’t handle paying your debts as they come due, if you cannot meet your debts as they come due, it’s called being insolvent, on the way to being bankrupt. You have some folks in the carriage, 2 ladies who jumped up on top and slowed them down and you had a little Audie Murphy guy coming from the side who turned this thing around.” LaQuey continued, “They turned this thing around. These guys in my opinion are heroes. However, if we turn this coach around and head back towards town, we’re doing so on roads that Tommy (Turney) got us with grants. There’s a whole list of grants that Tommy got us. There’s a whole list of good things that he’s done and I will not tolerate, in my office, anything negative about the previous administrator, period because he did a lot of good things for this city. The bottom line is I don’t see any negatives. We have a very big difference in philosophy.” He also stated that Turney, the former city manager, was facing an uphill battle when he started as city manager, “Now granted, Tommy was behind the 8-ball when he started. Things were this bad when he started. We cannot allow AP from previous fiscal years to impact this year. So my report just says that this is how much money we have and this is what we’re gonna pay. We’re in a pretty good position.” According to LaQuey, the city currently has $331,678 cash on hand. He said that they’re paying what they can with that amount of money, “Unfortunately $220,000 of it is spoken for with our water tower repairs. Our mayor went to John Deere and talked to them about the track-hoe. They agreed to take the track hoe back so that will be off our balance sheet and off of our liabilities.” He said that Yellow House is willing to take it back for almost what the city paid for it. LaQuey commented further on the council and Turney, “I work for heroes and I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. Tommy did a lot of good things around here. He did the best he could with what he had.”
LaQuey also said that they had worked a deal to get caught up with Republic for the trash bill. There is also a $478,000 bond payment due in June. LaQuey said that Shields had put aside $250,000 so far, “So that the city only has to come up with 228,508 between now and June. The amount of the other accounts payable, not including Yellow House and the others, is $205,358.