Southern Utah News Articles
Budget concerns still hot topic at the Fredonia Town Council
The Fredonia Town Council meeting last week began with Robin Button voicing his concerns about the Jackson Flat Reservoir being built in Kanab. Button stated the reservoir will affect the already limited irrigation water in Fredonia. He was upset that hundreds of acre-feet of water would be lost, and as a shareholder in that irrigation water, this was deeply disheartening. He urged the council to become involved in the project.
Council member Brent Mackelprang presented council with a letter from Mike Williams of the U.S. Forest Service, denying the town coordination status for the Kaibab Forest Management Plan. He explained the importance of the coordination status, and informed the council he would be discussing the issue with American Stewards. He would then return the issue to the council for further action.
Button approached the council for his agenda item. He explained there is a possibility he may subdivide property he owns in the future. Because of the current water project, he decided it would be a good idea to establish the tee for the subdivision, instead of waiting for a later date and having to dig up the road. Button agreed to pay all costs involved in the installation of the tee. The council approved the installation at Button’s cost.
The issue of the Fredonia Welcome Center was again brought to the council. With the town facing a more than $200,000 budget cut, the concern is the cost of keeping the facility open for the remainder of the summer. Despite the generous volunteer work of Greg Sant, who has maintained the facility and greeted visitors, the Welcome Center still requires money to run; utilities, cleaning supplies, paper products, etc., all cost the town.
In addition to the cost, Mackelprang stated his concern about the potential business it takes away from local merchants. He explained that in these tough economic times, the council needs to do anything it can to help the merchants, not hurt them. The Welcome Center provides a place for visitors to stop. If it was not available, visitors might stop at one of the local convenient stores and buy a snack or drink.
The council agreed to close the Welcome Center for the remainder of the season, but would re-evaluate the situation next year. They expressed their extreme gratitude to Greg Sant for all of his hard work and dedication to the facilities and its visitors.
Next on the agenda was the town’s accountant contract. In December of 2009, the former council and mayor decided to hire Lee Esplin’s firm to perform various accounting duties for the town. They had previously done the annual audits for the town, but new legislation required auditors and accountants be separate. Esplin’s 2009 billing to the town in the amount of approximately $75,000 was then presented to the council. Town manager Dan Watson had asked Esplin about the large bill. According to Watson, Esplin said it was because the former mayor had asked them to perform additional duties in 2009.
The council inquired as to whether the contract had been put out to bid by the previous council and mayor. They were informed it had not.
Robin Button requested the council review the charges from the bill and felt the former mayor did not have the authority to impose that kind of expense on the town.
The council was then presented with a bill in the amount of approximately $17,000 for Esplin’s services from February through June. Town Clerk Tina Horlacher expressed her concern that despite the high bill, many of the items outlined in their contract had not been performed.
It was explained that the firm charged $2,000 per month as a retainer, with an hourly rate of $185-$220 per hour which accounted for the bill.
Mayor Scott Heaton asked Horlacher what duties they were performing that could be brought back in house. She agreed to evaluate the list and determine what could be returned to the town. The council agreed, if necessary, they would consider the possibility of adding a part-time person to assist, which would help the local job force and save the town money. They also determined that if an accounting firm was necessary to retain, the contract should be put out to bid. A meeting would be arranged with Esplin to review the charges and contract.
Watson approached the council to ratify the purchase of a fire engine from Mesa, AZ. Originally, the council approved bidding on an engine with a maximum amount of $5,201. When Watson arrived in Mesa, he discovered the engines had a starting bid of $5,000 and would accept the highest bid. He viewed both engines and determined they were in good condition and would be vital assets to the Fredonia Fire Department. He decided to also bid on the second truck in the amount of $2,000. He won both bids, the first at $5,201 and the second at $2,000. Watson stated the engines were both 1993, and would help the town with its ISO rating.
Mayor Heaton advised Watson that in the future, he would like to see the town be ahead of the game instead of behind, asking for permission, instead of forgiveness.
The council approved the ratification of the additional engine purchase.