The Clifton City Commission met in regular session on Monday, January 28th, 2019 at City Hall in Clifton. Commissioners in attendance were Mayor Randy Burns, Vice Mayor Layton Packwood, Commissioner Carol Hickerson, Commissioner Eva Ruth Warren, and Commissioner Bill Willoughby. City Manager Doug Kibbey, City Recorder Barbara Culp, and City Attorney Mike Hinson were in attendance as well.
At the beginning of the meeting, Mayor Burns read a letter of resignation from Commissioner Carol Hickerson. The mayor said that he appreciated all that Ms. Hickerson has done since being on the commission. Hickerson said that she has enjoyed her time on the board, but some circumstances led to her decision to resign. City Manager Kibbey stated that Ms. Hickerson had done an excellent job of helping move the city forward, and Commissioner Warren said that she appreciated Ms. Hickerson’s service.
Mayor Burns then gave the invocation, and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited by all.
Commissioner Warren made a motion to approve the minutes from the previous meeting. The motion was seconded by Vice Mayor Packwood, and passed unanimously.
Commissioner Warren then made a motion to accept the resignation of Carol Hickerson. The motion was seconded by Vice Mayor Packwood, and carried unanimously.
A motion was then made by Commissioner Warren to appoint Mark Ray Staggs to fill out the term of Commissioner Carol Hickerson. Mayor Burns seconded the motion, and it passed unanimously on roll call vote. The Oath of Office was then administered to Staggs by City Recorder Barbara Culp.
Commissioner Warren made a motion to approve the second reading of Budget Amendment #3. The motion was seconded by Vice Mayor Packwood, and carried unanimously.
Commissioner Warren then made a motion to pass a resolution setting the Water/Sewer Fund Ad valorem in Lieu of Tax at $27,445.00, and the Natural Gas Ad valorem Tax at $7,604.00. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Willoughby, and the resolution was unanimously approved.
City Manager Kibbey told the commission that the CDBG Resolution on the agenda is to make application for grant funds to replace all the city’s water meters, and have a system where everything can be monitored from City Hall. The grant amount applied for will be $150,000.00, with the city’s match amount being approximately $10,000.00. After a brief discussion, Commissioner Warren made a motion to approve the CDBG Resolution. Commissioner Staggs seconded the motion, and the resolution to apply for the grant was unanimously approved.
Next was a discussion concerning the $2 administrative fee that customers are charged when paying their utility bill without actually presenting the bill. City Manager Kibbey recommended that the $2 fee be cancelled. Commissioner Warren stated that she felt that if the fee was cancelled, more and more customers would fail to bring their bills in with them when paying. Commissioner Willoughby made a motion to cease charging the $2 administrative fee. The motion was seconded by Vice Mayor Packwood, and was passed unanimously.
City Manager Kibbey then recommended that the commission accept Tommy Tinin’s bid for a concrete slab at the ballpark, as he was the only one who turned in a bid on time. Commissioner Staggs made a motion to accept Tinin’s bid, and the motion was seconded by Commissioner Warren. Commissioner Willoughby commented that the commission is spending a lot of money on different things. It was explained that the concrete pad would be for a batting cage so that players can work on their pitching, and would be available for use year-round. The motion to accept Tinin’s bid was passed on roll call vote with Commissioners Staggs, Warren, and Burns voting yes, and Commissioners Willoughby and Packwood voting no.
Next, City Manager Kibbey explained to the commission that there are new state rules concerning retiree insurance. The city will have to make a decision to opt in, which would keep benefits available for any retiree, or to opt out, which would not allow any retirees to keep insurance. There is also a limited opt out option which would allow any employee currently getting retiree insurance to remain, but no future employees would be allowed to participate. Commissioner Willoughby said that he would like more information before making a decision, and made a motion to table a decision on this until the next city meeting. Vice Mayor Packwood seconded the motion to table, and it carried unanimously. City Manager Kibbey stated that a decision must be made and reported to the state by March 31, 2019.
City Auditor John Poole addressed the commission next. He told the commission that his job is to make sure the city is receiving the money it is supposed to be getting. He also looks to see how the city is spending money, making sure that money is spent on city business. He said that he has no concerns at this time because the city is following procedures. He stated that the city does a good job of managing the risk of delinquent bills. He went on to say that the city is required to have a surplus of funds every other year, and the city is currently in compliance.
City Manager Kibbey next told the commission that the city’s current natural gas rates are not covering what they should be. He said that in the past, funds have not been set aside as they should have been, and he has had to move things around in the budget so that it does not look so bad on paper. He stated that the time has come for the natural gas rates to be set where they should be. Kibbey went on to say that in the last two years that he has been City Manager, he has looked for every way to cut costs without cutting services, but the city is just not making enough money to set funds aside for depreciation. City Manager Kibbey’s opinion was that the commission made a mistake in 2011 by only raising gas prices 15%, when they should have been raised 30%. The city’s natural gas consultant Jerry Foreman stated that what the city has been making on gas sales has only been covering the cost of gas itself, with nothing set aside for depreciation or the maintenance of equipment. He said that the city will have to replace some of their infrastructure in the future, which will require a reserve. Mr. Foreman also explained the PGA process that the city uses every month to calculate natural gas costs. When gas costs go up, the city has to bill customers at a higher rate, and when costs go down, the customers are billed at a lower rate. City Manager Kibbey recommended that the city set a standard gas fee of $5.18, and raise the current rates by 20%. No decision was made by the commission on the gas rates.
Next was a discussion concerning the problems at the water plant. Public Works Director Austin Clark explained that even if the city were to put a lot of money into the existing water plant, there would still be some problems. For example, the plant recently had major issues with getting the water treated. Clark stated that he is unsure how long the plant will keep running without repairing the underlying problems. He estimates that it would cost $3.5 million to remodel the water plant, or $7.3 million to build a new plant. Clark stated that a new plant would increase the capacity of treated water; it now takes 20 hours of labor to get the same amount of water that would only take 12 hours for a new plant.
Clark went on to tell the commission that Mr. James Frank Bundrant has property for sale near the city’s shop building that would be an ideal location for a new water plant. Mr. Bundrant is asking $11,250.00 for one of his properties, or $20,550.00 for all three adjoining properties. Commissioner Willoughby asked if it would be possible to build a new plant on just one piece of the property, and Director Clark answered that one piece of the property would not be large enough. After further discussion, a motion was made by Commissioner Warren to purchase three pieces of property from Mr. James Frank Bundrant in the amount of $20,550.00. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Staggs, and was passed unanimously on roll call vote.
Clark Bates, owner of Clifton Marathon, addressed the commission next. He said that he has made application for a liquor license, has run a newspaper ad as required, and will be making modifications to his building. Mayor Burns asked City Attorney Hinson if the commission could vote on Mr. Bates’ liquor license without the modifications being made, and Hinson said no. Bates said that he plans to have everything completed so that he can open by May 1st, and asked for the city’s support.
Former Clifton police officer James Newcomb then came before the commission, asking why he had been terminated without any notice. He stated that he was notified of his termination by a call on the city cell phone from Chief Byron Skelton, who told Newcomb that City Manager Kibbey had instructed him to collect Newcomb’s equipment immediately. Kibbey said that there had been a department head meeting, and it was determined in the meeting that a position in the Police Department needed to be cut. It was discussed in the department head meeting that Newcomb would be allowed to work two more weeks, but some questionable issues were brought up, and the decision was made to let Newcomb go at that time. Newcomb told the commission that he had worked three weeks of the previous month without a day off. Vice Mayor Packwood told City Manager Kibbey that if the issue was a matter of money, he wished that Kibbey had brought the matter before the commission. Kibbey stated that he doesn’t need a specific reason to fire anyone, because he is in charge of all the hiring and firing. Mayor Burns told Newcomb that he was sorry about his termination, but the City Manager and the Police Chief make the decisions, and he stands behind their decision.
Department reports were next on the agenda. Police Chief Skelton reported that one of the police vehicles had caught fire the previous Friday, and he is waiting on the insurance company’s evaluation of the vehicle.
Parks and Recreation Director Eddie Simmons reported that his inmate worker had been paroled that day, and he hoped to have a replacement the following week.
Public Works Director Austin Clark stated that engineers have checked the site for the proposed water plant, and have given their approval. Also, a state inspector checked the prison’s sewer pond to make sure that it is not leaking.
Fire Chief Lindsay Roberts stated that everything is on track with the Fire Department renovation.
Vice Mayor Packwood said that in the City Manager’s weekly notes, it stated that the city waived a $9,000.00 late fee for CCA. According to Packwood, that it is a lot of money, and he feels that CCA should have paid some of it. City Manager Kibbey informed the commission how much annual revenue the city receives from CCA.
Commissioner Willoughby said that some citizens had asked that Ross Creek Road be repaired. He also said that Brent Scott had spoken to him about receiving citations for violation of the city’s cleanup ordinance. Commissioner Willoughby asked how this is determined, and City Manager Kibbey explained the process.
With no further business to come before the commission, the meeting was adjourned.