Following budget taxes commission

By Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

It was a case of gentle verbal jousting at the table of the city commissioners Thursday night.

At the center was the target: The city’s budget and how the commissioners could and should ascertain if it was on target on not.

Commissioner Jim Lafferty said he thought it was prudent to keep track of the budget to avoid any surprises at the end of the fiscal year.

In seeking support from fellow comissioners, he asked: Should the commission receive more detailed financial reports or make a motion to have the city seek the commission’s approval on expenditures above a certain amount?

Lafferty said he had concerns on three fronts:

First, the city’s most recent audit, which goes back two years, had 13 pages of findings. The audits are late because the city’s former auditor had beome ill.

Second, emergency/unexpected expenditures, such as $26,000 for fencing and other costs for city land that’s being used as a commerical feedlot, continue to arise.

Third, some city employees have been given raises, without the city having a salary schedule.

“Are we doing due diligence, by not putting the whoa on,” Lafferty said.

Mayor pro-tem Jim Witcher said he takes the big picture approach by asking the city manager, John Sutherland, if funds are available to cover certain purchases. He also said that as a member of the finance committee he sees more detailed reports.

Commissioner Chris Maestas said the budget was “only a piece of paper,” a tool, to work with and that a budget will go up and down.
Mayor Antono Apodaca said that he understood Lafferty’s position. “When it comes to the bottom line, we are responsible.”

Commissioner Robert Lumpkin said he thought more time was needed to the review the issue.

Apodaca suggested the commissioners study the issues at a Jan. 4 workshop. Or schedule another workshop to review the issues.

City manager, John Sutherland, in his manager’s report, said:
l The city has had another lift station break down.

l The city’s water lines are in bad shape. It’s necessary to keep looking at and finding ways to upgrade these systems, to mitigate heavy metals in the water, such as uranium, Sutherland said. The city currently blends its water from several different sources to meet state and federally mandated levels of uranium in its water.

l Work on the Sands-Dorsey building, that was gutted by a fire in June, has come to a standstill. The city has not yet found an engineer that will sign off on a detailed work program.

In other matters, the commission:
l Approved the proposed subdivision of lots on a 4.4-acre site fronting Route 66 by developer Steve Whittington. The lots are expected to be sold to a hotel developer, Whittingon said. The property is on the south side of Route 66 in front of three large crosses.

l Approved a request by the city’s Parks Department to seek grants for irrigation systems at the city’s five parks. Funds are needed to install electrical wiring to power automatic sprinkler systems, which will control the time the parks are watered. Currently, sprinklers are turned on manually, and by the time all the parks’s systems are turned on, complaints are coming into City Hall about sprinklers being turned on at midday, said Max Jiminez, supervisor, Parks Department.

l Referred a request by Dora McTigue to install a street light at the corner of Leonard and Heman streets to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

McTigue said that she and neighbors had installed and pay for utilities to keep several street lights lit and that they would like the city to install a light for the residents’ safety.