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Auditor says good city cash management builds reserve

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

McCOOK, Nebraska -- The McCook City Council was presented with a recap of the cities annual audit report, Monday evening, during its semi-monthly meeting at council chambers.

While the report included recommendations for certain fees and rate increases, Terry Galloway of Almquist, Maltzahn, Galloway & Luth, the CPA firm that performed the audit, said good cash management practices by city staff were responsible for holding water and sewer rates down thus far. Galloway pointed out that if you just looked at the debt coverage ratio for water and sewer, it was easy to see that a rate increase was probably needed, "but through good cash management [throughout the departments] you have been able to hold the rates down. That is very good cash management," said Galloway.

He further explained that cash reserves were significant enough that the water and sewer debt ratios probably didn't need to be as high as would typically be targeted. His report showed cash reserves that could cover 17 months of expenses available, with only seven months available in last year's report and 12 months as the target.

"It's a balancing act," said City Manager Kurt Fritsch, responding to Mayor Dennis Berry, who asked what the recommendation was regarding the rates. "Were on the verge of having to do something about it, even though we are doing a balancing act now."

The audit report showed 12 of the city's 15 departments held expenses at, or below, last years expense amount and 12 of 15 were even with, or below, the recommended per capita expense amount for their department. "You've done a great job of holding costs down by department," said Galloway while recapping the expense section.

Steven Riley of Prochaska & Associates, the architect firm heading up design of the new Municipal Facility, congratulated city council "for passing the bond issue and all the hard work it took to get to that point." Riley presented a schedule for the project that targeted August 2011 as a construction start date and a substantial completion date set for October 2012.

He detailed three design and construction methods for council to consider, before recommending the third, known as the Construction Management at Risk contract delivery system. Riley said CMAR offered the "best of all worlds," citing its ability to get builders involved early on and its guaranteed maximum up-front price. "You can be assured the project is in your budget, [CMAR] has the least financial uncertainty," said Riley before adding that all three options were legitimate methods.

Fire Chief Marc Harpham said he was involved with the hospital project that used the CMAR method and they had "very good luck with it."

Councilman Mike Gonzales cited a similar experience with McCook Elementary and said the process created a team environment for those involved.

City staff will present a resolution, during the council's next meeting, recommending one of the three processes for the Municipal Facility project to follow.

The council conducted a public hearing to discuss a special exception request from Hancock Gravel. Jay Hancock spoke on behalf of the sand and gravel mining operation, that was looking to expand their operation on Road 714 onto property owned by Sid and Susan Doak. Hancock gravel already has a signed agreement with the Doaks and with no anticipated adverse effects from the expansion of the operation, the request was unanimously approved.

A second public hearing was hosted to discuss amendments to the zoning ordinance to allow individual domestic wind turbines in the agricultural district. City Manager Kurt Fritsch said that no requests had been made, as other cities have seen an increased interest in the technology, they were attempting to address the issue before it occurred. "This is a first step for us, new ground we're treading on," said Fritsch. The ordinance change will allow for domestic use, single turbines that will be limited to a 55 foot height requirement was unanimously approved.

Other items approved on the consent or regular agenda;

* The zoning ordinance amendment that gives existing stick built homes in light industrial and business commercial districts permanent status, as well as removes improvement restrictions set on those homes, was approved following its third and final reading.

* Council members unanimously approved an ordinance that authorizes the sale of a portion of the property the city acquired from Merilyn Schaffer and Eileen Hubert. The McCook Housing Agency will be purchasing the lot, located just off of F Street in the First Bison Addition, for $15,025.

* A resolution was approved that provided for the formation of the City of McCook Leasing Corporation as proposed by the City's bond underwriters. This was a necessary step to allow for the issuance of $3,750,000 in bonds, to finance the municipal facility project.

* Mayor Dennis Berry was approved to sign the contract between the city and Prochaska & Associates, for architectural services surrounding the construction of the new Municipal Facility, as well as the certificate of compliance for the 2010 roadway surface maintenance agreement with the Nebraska Department of Roads.

* A report was filed detailing the McCook Housing Agency's application for a Community Development Block Grant, submitted on their behalf by the city. The grant amount requested is $252,000 for site development of the $4,132,030 East Ward Village renovation project.

* Membership requirements for the Loan Committee, per the McCook Economic Development Plan, were clarified via a unanimously approved ordinance.

* The treasurer's report for quarter ending Dec. 31, 2010, was received and filed. The report gives beginning cash balances as of Oct. 1, 2010, plus receipts, minus disbursements, and then the ending cash balance, as well as a financial summary of the city's revenue and expense by fund.


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