A 2020-21 budget update, refinancing 2 bonds, continuation of the 2021 street improvement program, selection of a candidate to serve as city secretary starting in December, purchase of equipment for the street department and selection of a bid for paving Westwood Street were among the items Sulphur Springs City Council tackled as part of their regular October meeting agenda this week.
The unaudited numbers for the City of Sulphur Springs for fiscal year 2020-21 came in better than expected, staying below expenditure limitations. In the general fund, revenues outperformed the projections that were in the budget.
Sales tax revenues and a few “other miscellaneous revenues” came in a little higher than projected. For instance, water revenue came in higher than than projected, Sulphur Springs Assistant City Manager/Finance Director Lesa Smith told the City Council during the regular October council meeting this week.
If the hotel occupancy tax revenues are an indicator, tourism (or at least the hotel industry) appears to be rebounding well from the pandemic, increasing from $150,727 collected last year to $207,762.
She noted that while fuel sales were quite a bit higher than projected, fuel costs rose too.
“We do still have some end of the year allocations to make and after the audit, there will be adjustment entries that will need to be made, likely,” Smith told the council. “Overall, this gives us a pretty good picture of where we’re going to end up.”
Smith asked the City Council to consider approving Ordinance 2792, which would authorize refinancing of 2 bonds, debit owed by the city. By taking advantage of current rates, the city is projected to save $214,352 from 2021-2034, about $20,000 per year, on repayment of the utility bonds taken out in 2011 and 2012. Of course, refinancing by reissuing and sale of the general obligation refunding bonds would be contingent on receiving rates akin to or better than the current estimates.
The City Council unanimously approved, on first reading, Ordinance No. 2792. A public hearing for second and, if approved afterward by the council, final reading of the ordinance will be conducted during the 7 p.m. regular City Council meetings, slated Nov. 2, 2021.
Smith also at the Oct. 5, 2021, City Council meeting reported some funding remains in the Street Improvement Program budget. The hired contractor for the projects, Texana Land and Asphalt, only managed in September to pave one additional street segment spanning 1,188-linear feet along Texas Street from Lee Street to Industrial Drive. That leaves two sections of street tabbed as part of the 2021 SIP for improvements. The company expects to repave 3,131-linear foot section of League Street, from Bellview Street to Pampa Street, and a 1,901 foot section of Lee Street, from Davis Street to South Broadway Street, by Thanksgiving Day, city officials reported.
Because those funds were not expended prior to Sept. 30, 2021, those funds will carry over into FY 2021-22, from the FY 2020-21 budget to complete those projects.
The City Council also Tuesday evening reviewed the two bids submitted for concrete to pave 2,000 square feet of payment on Westwood Street in Woodbridge Crossing as part of the SIP. Highway 19 Construction $202,850 and 5W Contracting $296,136. Smith noted the city engineer had reviewed both bids. Although both bids were higher than initially projected in 2018 Capital Improvement Plan, the city engineer believes they are fair for today’s market. Thus, city staff recommended awarding the contract for concrete paving, including all materials and work to Highway 19 Construction, to Highway 19 Construction, who submitted the low bid.
Smith also asked the City Council to consider approving purchase of a CAT Backhoe for $98,000 from Holt CAT, using BuyBoard purchasing cooperative, to replace a 2012 Case 580 Backhoe currently used for street repairs. Public Works Director Russ Nuss recommend then making the Case backhoe as a secondary backhoe, and auctioning off the current secondary backhoe, a 2007 John Deere unit.
The $98,000 for the purchase was budgeted into the 2022 general fund capital outlay budget. Due to the extended periods between order and delivery, city staff initially put it on the October agenda so that, if approved, the city could go ahead and order backhoe in advance. The Holt backhoe was originally quoted at $110,000. However, when street department personnel talked with local Holt CAT representatives the price was lowered to $98,000 to fit the City of Sulphur Springs’ budget, Smith told the City Council Tuesday evening.
Because the contract is through BuyBoard, a purchasing cooperative, using Contract 515-16, the city was not required to go out for bids on it.
City Manager Marc Maxwell said vendors have to offer pricing that is as good as they bid on in their contract with BuyBoard. Many times, city staff have directly negotiated with a vendor who is BuyBoard contractor, then run the contract through BuyBoard, which has enabled the city to obtain equipment at considerably lower rates. A purchasing coop waives the sealed bid process but does not waive our coming to you for a purchase of $50,000.
According to City Attorney Jim McLeroy, a purchasing cooperative satisfies the sealed bid requirement. Essentially, BuyBoard and other purchasing cooperatives have already done the sealed bid work through the contracts offered, saving cities and other customers from having to conduct the bid process, including posting, holding, opening and vetting bid submissions.
The council unanimously approved the request to buy the backhoe using BuyBoard from Holt CAT for less than the budgeted amount.
The City Council met in executive session 30 minutes prior to the regular 7 p.m. meeting Tuesday to discuss a personnel matter, appointment of a new city secretary. Gale Roberts last October notified city officials of her plans to retire in December 2021. That would give the city plenty of time to find a suitable candidate, then for that candidate to train with Roberts prior to her official retirement, according to Maxwell.
In July 2021, Maxwell told the council he anticipated later this year asking them to appoint Natalie Darrow the city secretary. The matter was discussed during the Oct. 5, 2021, executive session, then, just prior to the conclusion of Tuesday’s meeting, the City Council officially selected Darrow to become Sulphur Springs City Secretary, effective Dec. 7, 2021.
Darrow has worked for the City of Sulphur Springs for 25 years, starting in records at the task force, and has been most recently serving as the records manager and computer systems specialist at Sulphur Springs Police Department. When not otherwise obligated in her duties at SSPD, Darrow has already been working periodically for at least 4 months alongside Roberts, learning some of the city secretary’s duties. She even filled in for Robertson when the city secretary was on vacation. She will be working full time with Roberts until her retirement to better prepare her for it in December.
The City Council approved on second and final reading Ordinance No. 2789, granting Kris and Kason Childress’ request to rezone 0.21-acre of property at 618 Oak Avenue from multifamily to light commercial. The designations fits with the intent for that area and current zoning surrounding it, Assistant City Manager/Tourism Director Tory Niewiadomski reported at previous city meetings where the request was considered.