06/05/2017 A View from the Gallery

At last evening’s Alcester City Council Meeting, item number 12-b-ii was considered. This issue dealt with the sewer line at 5th & Ofstad which had been discussed at a previous meeting of the council. The issue was whether to sleeve* ($16,000.00) the sewer line to effect a repair or to a total, complete repair the line at a projected cost of ($25,000.00) and the consequences of this sewer line was the proposed line to take the sewages from the N40 Industrial Park (my term).

During this discussion, the question was asked where the funds to effect either the sleeving or the full, complete repair, to which FO Jurrens replied, “from the 2nd penny sales tax”. I was astounded because Alcester has a sewer enterprise fund just for the purpose of replacing and repair of the sewer infrastructure. WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT FUND? Why is the city using the 2nd penny sales tax to fund something that each and every resident and business within the corporate limits of Alcester are already billed and pay into a sewer enterprise fund through their water bill. Check your water bill folks. Simply put the sewer fee breaks down into operational costs plus a sort-of-contingency fee or a savings account if you will to pay for costs of repair, renewal and construction of waste-water/sewer infrastructure. Ostensibly these contingency fees/sewer savings account would draw interest which would build the fund.

Since 2014 these enterprise funds have been raided (borrowed from) to pay for things not water or sewer, the city has been admonished for these questionable accounting practices and because of these practices the city is ineligible for certain grants.

So motion was called. Alcester City Councilman Lance Johnson made the motion to sleeve the Ofstad sewer line compromise but failed to state the intention to fund this ‘sleeving’ out of the second penny sales away rather than from the normal sewer fund. Councilman Dan Haeder seconded the motion and vote was unanimous to sleeve the Ofstad sewer line compromise.

At this point the city attorney was released from the meeting and on his way past me, I asked him about the failure to designate funding type and that an amendment was needed to confirm the fund from which the $16000.00 cost was to come. He agreed and spoke to FO Pat Jurrens before he left. Apparently FO Jurrens decided it was not necessary to amend the sewer ‘sleeve’ vote ignoring the Alcester City Attorney’s counsel because she did not inform Mayor Glas of the need for an amendment.

I waited, realizing the amendment was not going to be made, called point of order so the improper motion would be properly corrected.

To amend, the council needed to review the motion. Then make a motion to add the corrective language, second the motion to add corrective language and take a vote. Upon majority yes vote, the corrective language is added to the motion. The corrected motion then is made, a second is made and a vote taken to pass the corrected motion.

What actually happened?  Chaos! The motion to amend the original motion to read the funding of $16000.00 would be taken from the 2nd penny sales tax was made by Councilman David Larsen and seconded by Councilman Lance Johnson and vote to amend was unanimous. But a motion to accept the amended motion was not taken based on the rationale they had already voted on the original motion. So the amended motion to sleeve the Ofstad sewer compromise lies in limbo until a confirming vote can be taken to set the decision to ‘sleeve’ the Ofstad sewer compromise with the $16000.00 cost to come from the 2nd penny sales tax.

Failure of proper procedure has just put the Ofstad sewer sleeve project on hold until a proper motion and vote can be taken. Still the question,

 

        WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MONEY IN THE SEWER FUND?

      WHERE DID IT GO?

        WHY THE LIBERTIES WITH OUR SEWER ENTERPRISE FUND?

*Simplified a ‘sleeve’ is the process which inserts a smaller diameter pipe through the damaged outer pipe to carry the sewage in this case.