Brewer questions city payroll discrepancies

By SHELLY WILKISON

In response to questions from the Mayor and a Council member about payroll issues, City Manager Greg Boatright said Monday that “our finances are in good shape.”

Boatright said the Mayor and Councilmember Vicki Brewer had been requesting information about “budget and salaries and payroll.” In response, he included in the meeting packets Profit & Loss statements and Balance Sheets for the first five months of the fiscal year.

Mrs. Brewer’s questions, however, were about specific payroll issues and a general concern that items in the budget were being miscategorized.

“On the payroll summary, I noticed some of the wages the City Council approved are different from the actual payroll summary,” Mrs. Brewer said, confirming with the Attorney that individual employees’ salaries could be discussed in public.

“A family member of an employee — yours, Mr. Boatright — the City is paying 100 percent for their health insurance,” Mrs. Brewer said. “I don’t recall that being in your contract.”

Boatright did not respond to Mrs. Brewer’s concern, and did not respond by press time Wednesday to questions submitted by The Independent.

Mrs. Brewer also noted that the hourly pay of certain employees is higher now than what was approved by the City Council — another claim for which Boatright had no response.

“We (the Council) approved paying $15.50 per hour for your assistant  (Karen Smith) when this shows she is actually getting $15.97 per hour,” Mrs. Brewer said.

Mrs. Brewer also noted the discrepancies in pay for Patty Hyman of the Municipal Court and Utility Superintendent Brian Kirk. Both were actually getting paid about $0.75 per hour more than approved by the Council. Mrs. Hyman, a part-time employee, went from $25 per hour to $25.75 per hour; and Kirk went from $24.03 per hour to $24.76.

Mrs. Brewer also questioned the categorization of some expenses, including a $350 per month vehicle allowance for Boatright.

“As I’ve had the opportunity tlook at details of the budget, I noticed a lot of items are miscategorized. How are they getting input to the computer?” she asked Boatright. “Is it going to Ms. (Teri) Moore (the City’s contracted bookkeeper)? Is Ms. Moore deciding willy nilly where to put things?

“A lot of cleanup needs to be done because the City Council as a whole gets into budget season soon and it (expenses) need to be in their appropriate places,” she said.

Mayor Jamie Williamson added that when items are not categorized correctly, summary reports are not accurate.

Mrs. Brewer said her bigger concern was “getting all things straightened up so our bond rating  does not drop. We want them to look favorably on the City.”

“We can get it all cleaned up,” Boatright said. “We had a meeting with our financial advisor two weeks ago to make sure all were categorized correctly in time for our March (bond) payment.”

Mrs. Brewer asked for further legal clarification on an employee’s exempt status and moved to table the discussion until the Council meets again March 10.

Also Monday, the Council unanimously approved development agreements with Liberty Parke Development LLC and D-Star Holdings, LP and Gaida Family Limited Parnership.

Liberty Parke is a 300-home subdivision planned on SH 29 inside the city limits. The property was annexed into the city in November 2013 and was rezoned in January.

The Agreement with D-Star Holdings relates to property at the northeast corner of Ronald Reagan Blvd. and State Highway 29. Boatright said the developers will pump and haul wastewater for 250 units to the City’s wastewater treatment plant, and will contribute to the process of finding a regional solution for wastewater services.

He explained that new developments in that area are each installing their own transmission lines, but with additional growth, it may be time to consider alternatives.

The development will include commercial and residential property.

After a somewhat lengthy discussion on one company’s proposal to install internet antenae equipment on top of a city water tower, the Council voted 4-0 with Mrs. Brewer abstaining to table action until a future meeting.

SOS Communications, an internet service provider new to Liberty Hill, has requested to lease water tower space to operate wireless broadband services in the area.

The company, which has similar agreements or is in the process of negotiating agreements for the use of water towers in Jarrell, Jonah, Granger, Bartlett, Thrall and Florence, proposes to pay the City of Liberty Hill $100 per month plus an additional $25 per month for electricity.

Some Council members and city staff questioned whether $100 was sufficient. Councilman Wendell McLeod suggested $1,000 per month was more appropriate.

Kirk said staff time will be required to permit the company’s after-hours emergency access to the tower and protected well site., costing the City money.

SOS Owner Jerry Stephens told the Council that the company pays from $100-$250 per month to lease water towers in other communities. He said the rate is typically determined by the height of the tower. He added that the equipment is not drilled into the water tower itself, but rather into the railing.

Stephens said the company has 85 customers in the Liberty Hill area, including Mrs. Brewer, who chose to abstain from voting on the matter.

In other business, the Council accepted a bid in the amount of $42,829 from David Medrano Concrete of Leander to construct a full-size basketball court and half-court, as well as parking at City Park. The City will also ask Medrano to include a warranty.

Previously, the Council had approved the construction of sand volleyball and basketball courts at the request of the Parks & Recreation Board. Boatright said the Parks Board had changed its mind on the sand courts concerned they would be under-utilized.

The park improvements are paid for with a grant from Williamson County, and will be built on a soccer field that is not in use by the Liberty Hill Youth Soccer Association. The field runs parallel to CR 200.

Boatright said the City had obtained a letter from the LHYSA President agreeing to the placement of the courts on the field, which he said was no longer in use.

The Council also made two changes to the City’s fee schedule to reflect staff time spent on Development Agreements and postage rates regarding zoning notices.

The City will charge $2,000 for Development Agreements compared to $5,000 charged by the City of Georgetown and $3,000 by the City of Leander. Until now, the City has not charged developers for these agreements, although in some cases as much as 20 hours of staff time is required.

The Council also approved an ordinance Monday adopting the City’s officeal Zoning Map, contingent upon changing City Park zoning from Agricultural to Parkland.

The Council approved another ordinance granting a variance to the City’s setback requirements to Nakiba Enterprises, Inc., owner of Boomer’s convenience store, 13801 W. State Highway 29.

The variance to the front and side yard requirements was requested to allow the business to expand. A public hearing was held prior to the vote, but no one spoke.

In other business, the Council:

- Approved withdrawal of the Brazos River Authority from the Wholesale Wastewater Service Agreement between the City and MUDs No. 12, No. 13 and No. 19.

- Approved a $20,000 Task Order for Steger Bizzell engineering to provide a Utility Capital Improvement Plan for water and wastewater. The plan is a necessary component of a rate study currently under way.

- Tabled discussion and action on an item relating to reimbursing employees for expenses. The Mayor raised the issue in response to reimbursement to Boatright for $668 spent at Margarita’s Restaurant for an Economic Development Corp. sponsored Meet and Greet event in November 2013. Boatright submitted a credit card receipt requesting reimbursement. The Mayor and Councilmember Liz Rundzieher said more information was needed, including the names of people who attended. The item was tabled pending review of existing policies on employee reimbursements.