By Will McClure
The Stamford City Council held its regular meeting last Monday evening, September 19, to discuss the formal adoption of the tax rate, lake lot leases, citizen comments and possible changes to the budget. With all members present and the room filled with concerned Stamford citizens, Mayor Johnny Anders called the meeting to order at 5:15 pm and asked Councilmember Pam Reither to lead the room in the invocation. After the invocation and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance led by Anders, the council began its regular agenda by approving the minutes of the last regular meeting on September 6 as well as the minutes of the special called session on September 9. The council then briefly went over the plan for Ordinance 898, which formally adopted the discussed 3% tax rate increase for the 2016-2017 fiscal year. Once that was approved, the council looked to approve Resolution 2016-09 which dealt with the contract for the purpose of financing a service known as CopSync.
City Manager Alan Plumlee stated that the city has one more year of payments left for the service that are in the computers in Stamford's police vehicles. However, with the contract finishing up, Plumlee noted that the computers being used were now four years old that CopSync had asked the city if they would like to update the computers. After looking at the proposal, the city went ahead and approved the update which will see the new computers ordered this year, but the first payment to CopSync would not have to be made until the budget for next year is adopted. The council moved to approve the resolution as presented and proceeded to look at lake lot leases.
Plumlee was asked a few meetings prior to look at the lease agreements and asked Raymond Hollabaugh to look at them as well, stating that the lease base can be increased or decreased by 1% as of the proceeding June, which would amount to a proposed increase of $6. Plumlee suggested that the council look at the contract for future years, with the lease agreements being five year contracts, and see what can be done as well as look at a record-keeping program to help keep up with lease contracts and try to sync them up. Reither made a motion to research the contracts, which the board approved, before looking at the next item on the lake lot leases concerning transfer fees. At the time, when a lease needs to be transferred or sold, it would consume the time of employees along with legal work to move the process along. As there had not been a fee assessed that is known, the fee would be seen as necessary as there is a lot of work that is done to have the lease transferred. Councilmember James Decker made a motion to approve a $100 transfer fee for lake lot leases to help compensate for the time and effort needed for the process, which the council approved unanimously.
The council then discussed the addition of a "Citizen Comments" section to the agenda for future meetings, as requested by Stamford resident Gwen Baker at the last regular meeting. After researching other councils, the discussion revealed and suggested that citizens wishing to address the council would first need to sign in before the meeting and declare the reason for addressing the council. Once the floor was open for the citizens, each person speaking would be given three minutes to speak and address the council. Anders said that while it does allow individuals to make a statement to the council and give them a chance to speak without having to first be placed on the agenda, the downside would be that any issues that would be addressed by citizens could not be discussed or acted upon by the council as the issue would not be on the agenda, but it will give the council an idea of what to look into for future meetings. Baker, in attendance that evening, suggested that the council look at the city's charter as it should dictate the guidelines for citizens to address the council. Decker then made a motion to reinstate "Citizen's Comments" for future meetings, with the guidelines falling in line with the city's charter. Once the council approved this motion, Decker then addressed the council on an update concerning a revised budget.
Decker said that after researching the budget, he looked at the current budget and the city's spending, trying to go through everything and not cut anything in which the city was using to full capacity, not wanting to take funds away from needed areas. He stated that he looked for small efficiencies which would allow smaller amounts to be set aside, concluding that in the end that some items still need further research to make sure that the city does not need the money, but found that the city could potentially set aside around $50,000 in reductions, or about 20% of what is needed for the first water loan payment. Councilmember Melinda Smith stated that while the research is helpful, she was concerned that the longer that they take to approve the rate hike, the worse it will be. Decker said he was optimistic about the 20% and that it would take about $2 off of the proposed water rate hike of $15. At the time, no action was needed as more research will be completed, but it was restated that the longer the council waits, the worse it will be.
Plumlee then addressed the council with his City Manager's Report, stating that after the council approved the budget of the 2016-2017 fiscal year, the city's insurance agent contacted him and informed him that the medical insurance rates for the city employees would go up by 32.7%. Plumlee noted that the increase was fair, projecting a 10% increase on the proposed budget. He also noted that while meeting with Decker to find money to put towards the water loan, they worked to anticipate having to find the extra 22.7%, thus not taking away from the projection that Decker had suggested earlier. Plumlee noted that the coverage itself would not change other than the payments, as it was the same coverage the city has had for the past six years. Plumlee continued his report by stating that the city put off planned concrete work around town until they could get enough area to cover to justify the payment of a full truck, as the current plans only called for half of that amount. He continued his report by giving an update on the rate study, stating that the city has sent the first eight items to the service conducting the study and that the service will be getting back to them. Plumlee finished his report by showing the council a diagram of what the finished above-ground water storage tank that will be built would look like and that the city was asked what design that they would like put on top. While a decision is not needed for the next three or four months, it was suggested that a contest be held to suggest the design for the new tank. With no other business to attend to, the council moved to adjourn the meeting at 5:58 pm.