Leader Blues

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

TOP STORY >> Late census decision adds $50,000 to cost

Leader staff writer

A special census will cost Cabot more than $54,000 than it would have if it could have been completed earlier. By not having the results this year as planned, the city will lose about $200,000 in additional revenue.

The council passed a resolution Monday night during the regular council meeting, amending the amount it is willing to pay for a special census from $222,546 to $276,546.

The council voted to pay for a special census in 2005, but the money wasn’t available then or early in 2006 when a snafu in the budget led the council and the mayor to believe they were starting 2006 with $400,000 more than they actually had. Now that the cash is available, the price of the census has gone up $54,398.

The special census is important because the city will collect about $300,000 extra each year in state turnback after it is completed. Since it won’t likely be completed this year, the first of the new funds won’t be collected until 2007. The first year will essentially pay the cost of the special census, but after that the city will collect about $1 million extra before the next regular census is completed.

In other business, the council passed a resolution accepting the low bid for trash and garbage collection that will raise residents’ bills from $11.70 to $16.45.

The low bid was from IESI, the company that currently performs the service.
Jerry Lester with L&L Services, which had the contract before IESI, addressed the council saying the bidding process was unfair.

The contract was bid twice and IESI didn’t bid the first time.

Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh told Lester the first bids were thrown out because they were all too high. IESI didn’t bid the first time because they didn’t receive the notice that they needed to, the mayor said. But Lester said IESI had an advantage over others because they got to see what the other companies bid and could bid lower to win the contract.
“I feel like I’ve been dealt a bad hand,” Lester told the mayor and council.

Alderman David Polantz, who voted against IESI, told Lester that he agreed and that it was also his opinion that “you can’t trust a bid in Cabot.”

Lester’s first bid was $18.45 but his second was $17.90, just $1.45 more than IESI’s. Stumbaugh pointed out as evidence that he was correct in throwing out all bids to try to get the cost down for city residents.

An unofficial committee which met in Cabot for more than two years to discuss growth-related issues became official Monday night when an ordinance that had been on the table four months finally passed. The committee came to the forefront earlier this year when a drainage ordinance it sponsored got the blessings of the planning commission and then approval by the council before the city attorney declared it illegal because it hadn’t been placed before the public first.

The unofficial committee was made up of Alderman David Polantz, who sponsored the ordinance making it official, two members of the planning commission and city staff members, including a consultant hired by the planning commission. The press and the public were not notified about the meetings, though members said they were welcome to attend.

Ron Craig, planning commission chairman, appealed to the council to pass the ordinance, saying it dealt with growth issues that needed to be looked at. “I served on this committee when it was illegal. I just got out of jail,” he joked. But on a serious note he pleaded, “Let us finish the work we started.”

The council approved the new committee which is to be made up of three planning commission members, two council members and staff as required. The committee is to adopt bylaws and rules of procedure and it is to meet quarterly or as needed.

The council also approved a rezoning from residential to commercial on Highway 89, a half mile from the traffic light at Wal-Mart. The last rezoning request, which was much closer to the light, was turned down after nearby residents protested that it would make traffic congestion worse.

The council did not pass an ordinance creating an impact fee on new construction. However, a public meeting on the proposed fee is set for 6 p.m. Aug. 7 in the council chambers at the annex building. The ordinance will be on the agenda again for the August council meeting.