REGULAR COUNCIL MEETING
October 23, 2012
CALL TO ORDER: Mayor Echanove called the Council Meeting to order at 7:01 PM.
ROLL CALL: Council members present: Cecil Floyd, Tim Jones; Connie Newman, Bo Ossinger; Norm Schorzman; Alison Webb; Rick Wekenman. Also present: Public Works Superintendent Dwayne Griffin; Police Chief Jerry Neumann; Officer Joe Merry; Public Works Assistant Marc Arrasmith; City Attorney Stephen Bishop (7:29 pm); Deputy Clerk Ann Thompson. Public present: Garth Meyer; Heather McGehee.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES: Councilmember Schorzman MOVED to adopt the minutes of the Regular Council Meeting of October 9, 2012. Councilmember Newman seconded the motion and the motion carried unanimously.
PUBLIC WORKS REPORT:
DG submitted a written report. Park restrooms aren’t yet locked up. No Haunted Palouse problems. We got two bids to replace the damaged sidewalk at the Brownfields site: Woltering Construction bid was $3,773.00. Ace Elliott bid was $1,074.77. We accepted Ace Elliott’s bid. They will start next week.
There was a walk-through of the Brownsfield project last week; haven’t received the report yet but everything seems to be okay.
POLICE REPORT: We are still working with the Police, Fire, & Safety committee on the issue of poultry in city limits. First weekend of Haunted Palouse went well. The PD has had a few drug cases in Garfield lately.
3rd Quarter Treasurer’s Report. Clerk-Treasurer Beeson is out sick so we will discuss at next meeting.
2013 Budget Review: Council is looking at ways to cut approximately $37,000 from the 2013 budget. Much discussion ensued…..
We’ve looked at cutting line items, reducing this and that, pay cuts instead of pay raises, and we’re still paying for our deficit out of the reserve. One of the issues we’re facing is we do not have a functioning Finance Committee. Our chair person hasn’t had a meeting.
One of the things looked at is to change insurance coverage; Joyce has estimated a savings of $12,000/year by switching to a group health plan. Two staff members (Jerry and Marc) may drop out of the city plan and go on their spouse’s plan; the trade-off would be the city would have to pay the difference that they would have to pay to join their spouse’s plan but there would still be a net savings. That savings would be in addition to the $12,000 savings.
Streets budget is way down which means not being able to provide adequate services to the city. We’ve been balancing our budget by using our reserves. Our infrastructure is important enough that we need to be putting money back into our reserve. What services can we live without? Councilmember Floyd did some research of local communities similar in size to Palouse: Tekoa contracts with the Whitman County Sheriff’s Department and gets 20 hours a week of service for $45,000 a year, plus they contract for $500/month for code enforcement. Rosalia pays one officer for 45 hours a week; any calls during officer’s off-duty hours are handled by the sheriff’s department, and code enforcement issues have to be handled during officer’s hours. Rosalia is hurting financially so they’re thinking about floating a levy and letting the taxpayers decide if they want a police department. Oakesdale ran a law enforcement levy one year – there was community outcry for law enforcement so Oakesdale council said if you want it, vote for it.
Palouse pays approx. $135,000 for Chief and two officers’ salaries ($177,000 with benefits). There are options: get rid of the department and contract with the sheriff’s office; drop one officer; drop two officers; etc. The police services for Garfield contract can be dropped at any time. Councilmember Floyd is proposing discussing some of these options as a way to balance our budget and put money back in our reserves.
At the Police, Fire, and Safety meeting Chief Neumann proposed in lieu of the PD going from three-man to two-man, instead drop deputy clerk from ¾ time to ½ time, drop Marc Arrasmith from full-time to ¾ time, and drop one officer from full-time to ¾ time.
Supt. Griffin pointed out that the city has added something every year that adds to their workload: a compost facility, RV park, nature walk, chipper pile, etc. Public Works is getting asked to do more and more with less help and less money. Marc Arrasmith was asked what can be done to save money at the cemetery. We’re budgeting $15,000 for cemetery next year, up from $10,000 last year. Marc said he’s cut everything he can except let it dry up. He has cut way back on fertilizer and on watering.
It was pointed out that if Palouse went to contracting with the Sheriff’s Office for 20 hours a week, when someone calls outside of those 20 hours (for something other than a felony), they don’t respond. The majority of our calls wouldn’t get responses (barking dogs, squealing tires in the night, chickens, etc.).
There is a lot of discussion to be had and we’re a long ways from making decisions. We need to be very careful with these broad cuts. The PD is the only department in Palouse that has the ability to earn us money (Garfield contract is a break even deal). There is an outside chance that another town within a reasonable driving distance might want to participate in the program similar to Garfield.
We only have four council meetings to discuss this. We need to meet and do research. Explore every possible option. Over the last five years, we spent more than we made. Looking at that trend and the revenue trends coming from the state, the bottom line is balancing the budget without taking more from reserves. The trend will have us starting with a deficit in three years. All these numbers are based on our levies passing; if they don’t pass, things will be much worse. Councilmember Newman feels like the Public Works dept has been as frugal as possible. She also wants to see the 3% pay-cuts returned.
Councilmember Jones inquired about the 1% property tax cap and if it can be upped. Atty. Bishop explained it can be upped by the citizens by local vote with a supermajority required.
There will be compromises; the economy isn’t what it was. Every agency across the state is cutting.
Mayor reminded council to not just look at cutting expenditures but increasing revenues, particularly in our downtown.
Our total long term debt is less than $175,000. The well will be paid off in 2017, and the sewer plant in two years. Palouse doesn’t carry a lot of debt which is great.
Water & Sewer-Connie Newman, Chair: Committee met. Looking at the water and sewer rates. Rates were raised in Feb. 2011. Committee is considering a 1% increase to sewer rate, approximately $.24 cents additional per month. Not looking at a water rate increase at this time, partly because of some of the debt we’ll be paying off in the next couple years.
Police, Fire, & Safety-Rick Wekenman, Chair: Met briefly. Primarily to discuss poultry issue. Will be handed to policy committee to finalize draft.
Policy & Administration-Bo Ossinger, Chair: Policy committee will be taking over the poultry issue. Conditional use permits will still be required to own poultry within city limits. And minimum setbacks will be required as well.
Streets & Sidewalks-Cecil Floyd, Chair: Discussed above.
Personnel & Pool-Tim Jones, Chair:
Finance, Property, & Equipment-Norm Schorzman, Chair:
Parks, Cemetery, & Buildings-Alison Webb. Chair:
Bank Left Gallery liquor license renewal. No objections from PD or council.
ALLOW PAYMENT OF BILLS: Councilmember Jones MOVED that the bills against the city be allowed. Councilmember Ossinger seconded the motion and the motion carried unanimously.
ADJOURN: Councilmember Schorzman MOVED to adjourn. Councilmember Wekenman seconded the motion and the motion carried unanimously. The council meeting adjourned at 8:34 PM.
The following checks are approved for payment:
Claims Paid Ck. #4391-4403 $2,402.30
APPROVED: ________________________________ ATTEST: ________________________________