WILMINGTON — Wilmington City Council held a public hearing Thursday night regarding the 2018 water budget and needed funds, including the proposed future hikes in water rates.
Council member and Water Committee Chairperson Kelsey Swindler said there is significant variance between the 2018 budget and the 2017 budget. She specified that the harmful algae bloom diverted the city to using backup water which exposed systemic problems in the water plant.
She said the city is within $10,000 of not meeting debt service coverage in next year’s budget, point out that this is a significant issue. According to her, part of the harmful algae bloom would require capital improvements in the plants to handle issues, but the city wouldn’t be able to apply for the loans if there is no appropriate debt service coverage.
This resulted in the proposed legislation that included a 10 percent rate increase for 2018, and a 5 percent increase in 2019, another percent for 2020, and a 2.5 percent increase in 2021.
“It’ll be felt certainly, but it’s something that we have to do for the safety of water treatment,” said Swindler.
She also emphasized that none of the water budget’s money would be spent on fluoridation, except what the water committee know can be reimbursed completely by the Ohio Department of Health. The issues with water treatment facilities come first, with fluoridation planned for 2019.
No ordinances were passed during the meeting due to the absence of council members Lonnie Stuckert and Joe Spicer.
Council did perform readings on five ordinances. During the finance committee, they held the first reading approving a Great Oaks compensation agreement and “authorizing its execution and delivery” to the Great Oaks Career Campuses, “together with the initial TIF compensation payment hereunder.”
They also held second readings on the ordinance on the water rates increase and on the 2018 budget. A special council meeting to pass any of the ordinances has not been scheduled.
Safety/Service Director Brian Shidaker discussed the intent of the new Xenia Avenue traffic island. Shidaker stated that they found a lot of vehicles were going left of center around the curve and another concern is the speed of vehicles.
According to him, the likelihood of an accident causing serious physical harm or fatality is high. He said the island idea isn’t a perfect one because of a high likelihood of accidents, but it would force traffic to not go left of center and to slow down. This would diminish the likeliness of a serious accident.
As reported in Friday’s News Journal, Mayor Stanforth said Thursday night that an audit showed the late Clinton County Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director inappropriately used CVB funds.
The audit lists the total amount as $683, which was repaid by the estate of former Executive Director Debbie Stamper. Stamper, who directed the CVB for 18 years, died in December 2016.
”These findings are heartbreaking but highlight the fact that no one is infallible to mistakes,” said Stanforth.
Immediately following the release of the report and after receiving permission from the state auditor to discuss the issue, CVB President Doug DeVilbiss reached out to the administration through Judiciary Chairman Matt Purkey to discuss the issues and to assure the city that the CVB is actively updating the organization’s bylaw policies and bringing closure.
“The city trusts and values the mission of the Visitors Bureau and we remain committed to supporting them and our relationship. We’ll work to assist them and further their mission of attracting tourism to our wonderful town,” he said.
DeVilbiss told the News Journal on Friday the board acknowledges the findings and, in light of them, they revised their oversight policies. This is to provide enhanced detail in documents regarding purchases and financial transactions.
“We’re pleased it has been closed and made whole,” said DeVilbiss. “Any funds determined missing by the state have been repaid.
The 11-page audit can be found online at wnewsj.com. A part of it states:
“We haphazardly selected forty disbursements of lodging taxes from the years ended December 31, 2015 and 2014 in addition to all disbursements exceeding $1,000, and compared the purpose for these disbursements as documented on vendor invoices or other supporting documentation to the sources of restrictions listed in Cash Disbursements Step 1 above.
“We noted the following exceptions:
• The date that the Bureau posted expenditures did not always coincide with the date of the check. There were instances in which expenditures were posted to the accounting system weeks before the check was dated.
• The accounting system description of some expenditure transactions was noted as miscellaneous or gifts.
• Check numbers were not always entered into the accounting system
• The Bureau purchased gift items for gift baskets to give to stake holders and businesses with which the Bureau does business. The Bureau should document the purpose and content of gift baskets to ensure that they are for an allowable purpose.
• The Bureau purchased board member gifts, office displays, and flowers. When purchases of this nature are made, the board should memorialize the approval and purchase of such gifts in order to document the proper public purpose of the expenditure.
• The Bureau paid financial charges and late fees in four instances totaling $147.
• The former Bureau Executive Director received two cash advances in the amount of $1,000 to travel to Bureau functions. Although the Bureau presented receipts to support the advances and the Bureau’s policy allows for employee reimbursement of expenses with a receipt, the Bureau has not adopted a policy allowing for the use of cash advances.
• The Bureau Board did not formally authorize salary for the Executive Director and Assistant in a contract or in the board minutes. Salary amounts were based on budgets submitted at the beginning of the year. We recommend the Board document employees’ salaries in a contract and approve salary amounts and bonuses in the minutes.
The Bureau did not provide supporting documentation for the following expenditures. We were unable to determine whether these expenditures were allowable:
• Former Executive Director Debbie Stamper was paid for $173 as reimbursement for business expenses, however she only provided $149 in receipts to document her expenses. As a result Ms. Stamper was overpaid $24.
• The Bureau did not provide support to document proper public purpose for 19 credit card expenditures totaling $659.
“In accordance with the forging facts and pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Section 117.28, a Finding for Recovery for public monies illegally expended is hereby issued against the estate of former Executive Director Debbie Stamper and her bonding company, Ohio Casualty Insurance, Co., jointly and severally in the amount of $683, and in favor of the Clinton County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau’s operating fund.
The estate of Debbie Stamper repaid $683 to the Clinton County Convention and Visitors Bureau while under audit.”
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574
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