City council hears 2018-19 audit report

Posted July 14, 2020 at 2:28 pm

Albany City Council heard several presentations, including the 2018-19 year audit report, during a long one-hour and 50 minute regular meeting last Tuesday, July 7. All council members were present.

The council was first addressed by Bald Rock area resident Ray Vibbert pertaining to that area of the county being constantly without water.

Vibbert, who has been at several council meetings in past years, noted there was a person in that community that had COVID-19 and had to have drinking water delivered to them. He further added the primary problem, he felt, was the number of poultry houses in that area of the county that require the use of a lot of water.

Councilman Tony Delk said the problem had been talked about and talked about, and even new tanks installed, but the problems still existed.

It was also noted residents in the area that go without water still have to pay water bills, which many do not think is fair.

Councilwoman Tonya Thrasher again said the city needed to reach out to their engineers and also indicated that residents should not have to pay water bills, but have them suspended if they did not have water.

Although Mayor Lyle Pierce said the city was practically assured of a $3 million federal mines and minerals grant that would go toward fixing the problems permanently, even when approved, work would not begin until at least this fall.

Vibbert said the water outage problems were worse now than ever, especially during summer months when more water is used.

Following some further discussion, the mayor suggested, and the council agreed, to issue an emergency situation and seek permission from the state to have water hauled to the tank at Bald Rock by the fire department to keep them filled, and also issue a boil water advisory to all affected residents, as a temporary solution until actual repairs to the overall system can be completed.

There is an estimated eight to 10 homes in that area that are continually running out of water, sometimes for days at a time.

At the request of city officials, Shawn Crabtree, Director of the Lake Cumberland District Health Department, briefly addressed the council about this past weekend’s protest in downtown Albany and the health department’s role, if any, in the matter, as concerns with COVID-19 and large gatherings were at issue.

Crabtree noted that although the group’s timing for such a gathering was not good, the district health department had no legal powers to act, but rather gave guidance to local and state officials.

He did say the health department had been in contact with the protest organizers and were assured that safety guidelines such as the six foot distancing and mask recommendations would be followed.

Some council members also were upset about the way CCHS Senior Graduation had to take place, as compared to a gathering such as an organized protest. Crabtree said at the time of the graduation in May, groups of 10 or more were not supposed to gather ,but that number increased to 50 or more when regulations began to be relaxed last month.

Protest organizer LeMegan Shelton also thanked businesses for supplying masks, sanitizer and other safety products. (A separate article and photos of the protest held Saturday can be found beginning on page 1 this week.)

Artie White, of White & Associates PSC then finally presented the council the city’s audit report for the previous 2018-19 fiscal year, as the current year’s audit will be due again by the end of this year.

This was the first year for the new auditors to do Albany’s annual audit report, which the council had been waiting to receive for several months.

The bottom line in numbers is that the city is operating on a “thin” budget and still experiencing difficulty by losing revenue in the water department, which many note should be making money.

According to the auditor, there is a negative balance of $330,000 in water revenue, apparently due to the unusually high amount of water loss incurred by the system yearly.

Councilwoman Thrasher asked, “Why isn’t the water department making money. Water utilities usually make money.”

Bob Cashion, Business Development Manager with SF Water Sales and Services of Bowling Green, then made a lengthy power- point presentation to the mayor and council pertaining to the sale of water plant treatment chemicals that he estimated could save the city up to $36,000 annually.

The company will be seeking a six-year contract with the city and it was noted over that period of time the city could save up to $180,000 in chemical treatment costs.

Cashion said SF did have several clients, including the U.S. government and many others, saying “utilities is the cash register for city revenue.”

The SF representative said a chemical trial would be conducted at the local water plant and would show the savings on chemical costs. The company would also do follow up wellness checks every four months.

He said certain parameters have to be met to keep water safe, and water systems and equipment need to be updated and maintained.

He said the number one priority was sludge management and work on the filtration system, which could save the city several thousand dollars up front.

Water Department Supervisor Jeff Conner, who has been working with SF Water Sales and Service as a means to reduce chemical cost, also noted the need for new equipment and also said there was an agreement still in place to take sludge from the treatment facility.

Cashion also said the company would help with employee training, and most importantly, finding where the loss of water is coming from and try to help with that problem, which is apparently what is causing the department to lose, instead of make, money.

All council members agreed the plan sounded like a good prospect for the city and a contract with the company will be presented to the council for consideration at their next meeting.

The council, on a motion by councilwoman Rene York, also approved second reading of the 2020-21 fiscal year budget and, on a motion by councilman Delk, approved second reading of the electrical franchise ordinance.

The lengthy meeting, which also included an approximate 15 minute break between presentations, was then adjourned.

The next regular meeting of Albany City Council is scheduled for Tuesday, August 4, at 5 p.m. at city hall and will be live streamed on the City of Albany’s Facebook page.