By Stephen Wagner
The City of Lake Lotawana Board of Aldermen held their February open meeting on Tuesday February 18th. It was better attended than most meetings of late, with five City employees and family members in attendance as well as four candidates for Alderman positions: Dr. Tillema, Mrs. Roush Morse, Mrs. Wagner, and Mr. Byrne.
Outstanding bills were approved and the Board moved on to the Department reports. Several of the Aldermen, Mr. Jackson, Mr. Reed, Mr. Miles, and Alderwoman Aholt asked short thoughtful questions to gather additional information.
During Keith Herzber’s report (Keith is the Director of Public Works), a discussion of the new siren for the area south of Highway 50 started. It is referred to colloquially as "the Foxberry siren." The discussion is revolving about which type of siren, existing or newer advanced technology, and who will set the siren off in a weather emergency.
Public speaks was next on the agenda and three citizens requested to speak: Debbie Wagner from Ward II spoke on civility and the need to follow Roberts Rules of Order. Next, Mr. Bob Hill spoke on civility as well, transparency in government, and the importance of an honestly informed citizenry. Steve Wagner (this reporter) spoke briefly on the new siren in Foxberry, the technology choices, and the forthcoming certification of the consortium of jurisdictions in southeast Jackson County that is expected shortly.
For Alderman Speaks, Alderman Reed started off with a short comment on the question that if a store’s (rental property in this case) changed and was now selling something different, did that constitute a change warranting a building inspection. His contention was that different stores would have different needs for such things as electrical connection, and the City had a responsibility to inspect and tenant made alterations. Alderman Reed then addressed several of the Police Officers that were in the audience. Reed was responding to some emails that had circulated around the Lake, stating that Officers were forced to work uncompensated overtime and had faulty equipment. The healthcare issue was also mentioned. Reed tried to express what he felt was the Aldermen’s position, and he invited the officers to come forward for a discussion on the problems alleged in these emails.
Alderman Jackson spoke on the siren issue. He felt that the original presentation could have been better. The most telling statement was "We not strive for excellence and do it right the first time?" He then spoke to the cost of constantly repairing previous administration’s missteps. His comments were insightful and correctly described some of the City’s past initiatives.
Alderwoman Aholt then spoke of the meeting with Mayor Welsh, Reed, and this reporter on the budget last week. She requested several additional pieces of documentation be provided to the aldermen. She also questioned the City’s account at Lone Summit Bank. Another issue was that if we have any surplus that the City should invest it, pay down our LAGERS, an unfunded expense, and a review of overtime. She asked were we understaffed.
Mayor Welsh discussed the statutory budget requirements, and the conservative method that the BOA uses to estimate revenues. He stated that the City has had a balanced budget for the last few years. He also invited candidates for office could also attend the upcoming meeting with the auditors.
Having attended the meeting with the Mayor, Reed and Aholt I can report that the "surplus" as reported is not from one year, but was accumulated over several years. I would argue that the City did not have a "balanced budget" but a surplus budget for the last few years. A balanced budget strongly implies we only met expenses.
An example of the inevitable errors that occur in the administration of government was brought forward. It seems that when we annexed the property on the northwest corner of Colbern and Highway 7, the wrong description for that plot of land was filed. Instead of the intended parcel, we annexed the small sliver of land adjacent to the road. Someone had just copied the MoDOT paperwork and it was not verified. This was directly to Alderman Jackson’s previous call for "doing it right the first time." The re-annexation was tabled.
The BOA then passed separately the promotion of part time Reserve Officer Lynch to a full time Police Officer. The promotion of P/O Thompson to Sergeant. At that time the Chief stated again how this would impact the new schedule.
The next matter of business was the snow plowing of the CID property for $2,500. Alderman Jackson again spoke to the issue that the original agreement with the CID indicated the City should be doing this without charge, especially since other annexed areas were being plowed for free.
The BOA then voted to increase the City’s hourly employees pay by 2.1%, which when taking into account this is almost March, the net increase for the year is 2%.
Three other resolutions were passed to participate in external groups. The City Administrator explained how these would benefit the City, and they were all passed unanimously.