Last Thursday’s Ely City Council meeting became very heated with the memo from Treasurer Janette Trask about the state of the city’s financial reserves.
It appeared the city council had begun taking the financial state seriously that the city is in with denying the renewal of their membership with the White Pine Chamber of Commerce. The fees? $450.
In addition, the council also voted against renewing its membership with the Nevada League of Cities at a total of $2,471.59 that would have been paid equally between all funds. That vote resulted in a 3/2 vote.
Councilman Kurt Carson had placed on the agenda for discussion and possible action of Trask’s memo to Mayor Melody Van Camp, city council members and City Administrator Bob Switzer regarding General Fund financial concerns.
Trask stood before the council and went through her memo line by line indicating what she has been working on and what she has discovered in the past several months since she was re-hired in March of this year.
Trask said “to me, in my opinion right now the budget is overstated. Do you want me to finish?”
VanCamp said, “but also with all of this thing going on there has been the wonderful emails we have received from Mr. (Mark) Bassett about insolvency for the city which is not true, it’s the headlines in the paper that doesn’t help us any, and this got blown out of proportion and that’s why I always use the line ‘trust but verify,’ but I also want to ask the accountant to stand up because this puts a black eye on this and a lot of this stems from when you left and other people were hired and we have incompetent people working the books who do not know what they are doing.”
The mayor went on to say it’s coming full circle, and now we’re getting it but are we and then we …”
Trask interrupted the mayor, but the mayor goes on by saying, “Wait a minute, I’m the mayor you’re not, and what pisses me off is we’ve got all of that hearsay and stuff, oh my god the state is taking over the city…we’re not even close to it, so maybe you might put that in the paper.”
Treasurer Trask went on to say that the city is not being taken over the by the State Department of Taxation. The mayor reiterated the questions, and said, “That needs to be put in the paper.”
Trask continued to explain why she came up with the information she did. She mentioned that she had went back and looked at the budgeted fiscal year for 2013 and saw that the ending fund balance without the budget stabilization was over $800,000.
The mayor was quick to say “and we also have 480,000 that’s taken out for police protection.”
Trask said, “that’s also in here too, what I’m trying to tell you guys, is that we need to start turning it around. we have to start looking at it.”
Councilwoman Jolene Gardner spoke up and talked about how Trask had gone back three years basically when she had left, but was quick to point that the all of these things that were done wrong were because the people that were hired didn’t know how things were set up.
The mayor went on the say, “How are we going to turn it around? We don’t want to turn it around again in the paper and then on facebook, clutter and all of that.”
Councilman Ernie Flangas said, “At this time I think we should listen to the reports that are…”
The mayor interrupted Flangas and said “you just never mind, go ahead.”
Discussions went on about reviewing the police agreement and the Fire and EMS agreements. Several issues were brought up that need to be looked at, such as the police protection agreement, the large spending by the street fund and an unbudgeted transfer of $100,000 that went to the street fund.
The auditor from Hinton and Burdick spoke saying that “People are are human, mistakes can be made and can be caught and adjusted during a review, things are getting addressed and taken care of.”
The auditor confirmed that the city is well above the state’s minimum requirements that would initiate that process. Trask commented “If we continue spending the way we have been for the past two years, we will be at risk”.
Carson gave a motion for City Treasurer to be included in all financial items at this time.
Another topic that seemed to have the most discussion were of businesses that have not installed their backflow prevention devices. A topic that has been going on for the past two and a half years, the council went back and forth on suggestions and ideas of what could be done to enforce it.
City Attorney Charles Odgers said “it isn’t to harm people but gain compliance.” Several businesses have already installed these systems and it has cost those businesses anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000.
Three property owners who have taken no action listed on the agenda are R&R Properties at 1000 and 1011 S. Pioche Highway; Thomson Property at 800 E. Aultman; and Moattar properties at 1301 Aultman, 900 Avenue M., 1550 High St. and 195 15th St.
Carson said “it’s going to create some hardship, but we’re not being fair to the people that spent the money and who are obeying the law.”
The major concern was displacing tenants of these particular properties where approximately 200-plus families reside.
Odgers said “If we shut off the water we are going to be affecting approximately 200 families. The landlord is going to be required to move these people out of these houses that they are no longer are able to live in without water, and place them somewhere else, we don’t have an additional 250 units in Ely to absorb these families.”
A fine was discussed, where the property owners fined would have to come in before the city council, before shutting off the water. Carson made a motion to come up with a $100 day fine and a change of the ordinance, the motion was approved.
After a brief break, an agenda item that had initially been placed as the last item was moved up for discussion.