Council approves new rates for water, hears presentation from ORWA

The public hearing to receive comments from the public regarding FY21 budget amendments and the FY22 budget was called to order by Mayor Kolby Arnold at 5:45 p.m., June 9, 2021. As there were no comments from the public, the meeting was adjourned.

The Cherokee Development Authority regular meeting was called to order at 6:00 p.m., June 9, 2021. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Mayor Arnold, and the invocation, led by City Manager Mike Jones, the roll was called. Chris Padilla, Kolby Arnold, Luke Hague, Jeremy Hickman and Adrienne Wessels answered roll.

Wessels made a motion to approve the items on the consent list; these items included the minutes of the May 26, 2021 meeting and the claims list. Hickman seconded the motion, and the consent agenda items were approved.

April financials were presented by Chase Phillips of RS Meacham CPA. Overall, the situation is positive; all revenues are at or above budget for the year, and most expenses are below budget. Profits for the year are higher than budgeted.

Jones presented the City Manager’s Report. On June 8, Mr. Jones met with Cole Bond, City Engineer, regarding the water issue at the Sale Barn. The city can change up to 1,000 feet of waterline without going through an engineer. Mr. Jones recommends that the city not adopt additional waterline as a City Main unless construction is approved, and the waterline is constructed inside the current right-of-way along a city roadway or alleyway. The City has been approved for a grant with OWRB to have their waterline and sewer line digitalized. This project will begin in July or August.

City Manager Jones presented the Guernsey Water Master Plan. Engineers have no explanation for the large water loss the city is suffering each month. Eventually the city will need an additional water tower.

The Council considered a Mutual Aid Agreement with SoonerWARN. If the city participates, they will be notified when other municipalities need help on an emergency basis with their water systems, and we will be able to request help should an emergency develop in Cherokee. Agreeing to this does not obligate the City to respond at any time, but we will have the choice to help should an emergency arise. Hickman made a motion to approve the Agreement, and Wessels seconded; the agreement was approved.

Randy Clark, from ORWA (Oklahoma Rural Water Association) presented information on the water rate analysis. Currently, citizens pay a base amount for any water used up to 5,000 gallons, plus a specific rate for additional water; commercial users pay a higher base amount. Mr. Clark recommended that the City lower the minimum to 1,000 gallons, and charging the incremental rates for usage over 1,000 gallons. He stated that the current system is not sustainable financially. He recommended charging homeowners and commercial users the same rates, and that we increase our rates in two phases. Phase I would lower the base rate to 3,000 gallons for six months; Phase II would lower the base rate to 1,000 gallons after that six months. Thereafter, water rates would be increased by 3% annually. The majority of Cherokee’s households use 3,000 gallons or less per month. Mr. Clark acknowledged the City’s plan to replace most of the current water meters, which will allow the city to more closely track water usage and streamline the billing process. Hickman made a motion to approve the water rate increase plan, and Padilla seconded the motion. Hague abstained from the vote, and the plan was approved.

Phillips from R.S. Meacham presented amendments to the FY2020-2021 budget. Revenues have been higher than originally budgeted, and expenses trended lower, so we do show a net increase in the CDA Fund Balance. Hickman made a motion to approve the proposed amendments, and Wessels seconded the motion. The amendments were approved.

Former Cherokee resident Britt Gregory appeared before the council to request a waiver on his June water bill. Although he lives in Amarillo, he does own a vacant home in Cherokee. He received his May bill, which reflected a charge of approximately $1,400; at that time, he asked the city to cut off water to his house, called a plumber, and asked for a waiver of the excess fees. The City waived the excess fee of $803.89 as per policy to waive one excess water bill every two years. When Mr. Gregory received his June bill, he found that the water event at his vacant home overlapped two billing cycles; the June bill came to just under $1300. He asked that the second bill be adjusted down as was done on the first bill. Members of the CDA mentioned that the last time a citizen asked for a second adjustment to a bill under these same circumstances, that request was denied. Wessels made a motion to waive only the sewer portion of the second bill, and Hague seconded the motion. The motion passed with three votes for and two votes against. The City will adjust Mr. Gregory’s second bill by $237.37, which was the excess sewer fee.

The Council considered whether to approve, deny, amend or revise Resolution 2021-005, a resolution of the Cherokee Development Authority and the Cherokee City Council adopting and approving its FY2021-2022 budget and other budgets, and appropriating the revenues for the stated purposes as contained in the budget, directing the Mayor/Chairman, City Manager/Trust Manager and City Clerk/Trust Secretary to take any and all additional actions as may be required for the implementation of this budget. Hickman made a motion to approve the FY2021-2022 budget, and Hague seconded the motion. The item was approved.

There being no new business and no remarks or inquiries by the governing body members, the meeting was adjourned at 7:30 p.m.

The regular meeting of the Cherokee City Council was called to order by Mayor Arnold at 7:35 p.m. All members of the Council responded to roll call.

Wessels made a motion to approve the items on the consent agenda, which included minutes from the May 26 meeting and the claims list; Hickman seconded the motion. The items were approved.

The Council considered taking action on Ordinance 2021-17, amending Chapter 7, Article 1, Division 1, Section 7-104, Subsection A.2.b. of the Cherokee Municipal Code 2020, increasing the City Manager’s spending authority per individual situation, without City Council approval, from seventy-five hundred dollars ($7500) to twenty thousand dollars ($20,000). OMAG had suggested a $25,000 cap, and City Attorney Bryce Kennedy recommended a $20,000 cap. Padilla made a motion to approve the ordinance with the maximum amount of $15,000. Hickman seconded the motion, and the ordinance was approved as amended. Hickman then made a motion declaring the above ordinance an emergency, and Padilla seconded the motion. The declaration of emergency was approved.

The Council considered whether to approve, deny, amend or revise Resolution 2021-005, a resolution of the Cherokee Development Authority and the Cherokee City Council adopting and approving its FY2021-2022 budget and other budgets, and appropriating the revenues for the stated purposes as contained in the budget, directing the Mayor/Chairman, City Manager/Trust Manager and City Clerk/Trust Secretary to take any and all additional actions as may be required for the implementation of this budget. Hickman made a motion to approve the FY2021-2022 budget, and Wessels seconded the motion. The item was approved.

Phillips of RS Meacham presented the May financial reports. Once again, we are ahead of the budget on income, and expenses are lower than budgeted.

Jones presented the City Manager’s Report. On June 3, Main Street hosted a group from Oklahoma City that took pictures and video of Cherokee for a promotional video. He thanked Main Street and all who participated in the event. Mayor Arnold attended the New Officials Institute Training and June 3; Padilla and Hague will complete the training on July 10. There will also be in-person training on September 30 and November 4. State Statute Title 11 O.S. Section 8-114 requires all persons elected or appointed for the first time to attend these sessions.

Fifth Street is open again, just in time for harvest. Crews are working hard on filling potholes; they can only work on that until the middle of the day due to high temperatures. They are also keeping up with the mowing.

Bids for the Ohio Street project are expected in July. During the resurfacing, Ohio Street will be shut down (expected for one month).

City Attorney Kennedy will look into the feasibility of the city selling various lots in town while retaining the mineral rights.

The City will be spraying for mosquitoes between June 10-14, and will continue to do so as needed.

City Clerk Amber Wilhite reported on the number of permits and licenses issued in May; the street carnival was responsible for 17 peddlers’ licenses.

Chief of Police Ryan McNeil presented the Police report for May, indicating that they have been very busy. The police are actively investigating the rash of car burglaries occurring in Cherokee. Various staff have attended training on Investigating Cyber-tips, Mass Fatality Planning and Response for Rural Communities, and TASER instruction.

The Council considered the adoption of the FY2020-2021 Budget Amendments. Wessels made a motion to approve the amendments, and Hague seconded the motion. The amendments were approved.

The Council considered entering into Executive Session for the purpose of discussing the employment, hiring, appointment, promotion, salary, benefits, demotion or disciplining of City Attorney Kennedy. Wessels made a motion to enter into Executive Session, and Hague seconded the motion. The Council entered into Executive Session at 8:19 p.m.

The Council returned to regular session at 8:47 p.m. No action was taken on the issues discussed in Executive Session. There being no new business and no remarks or enquiries by the governing body members, the meeting was adjourned at 8:48 p.m.

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