Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mendocino Grand Jury: Point Arena needs to hire city manager, raise wastewater rates

Ukiah Daily Journal Staff
Updated: 05/18/2010 12:00:47 AM PDT

Finding a lack of "authority, coordination and communication" in its operations, the Mendocino County Grand Jury City recommends that the City of Point Arena hire a city manager.

In its report released Sunday, the grand jury described the city as "weakened by the lack of a designated city (manager), which leads to inappropriate and overlapping responsibilities being placed on the city council members (and) inefficient organizational structure (with) no consistent coordination between the employees, departments and the council."

According to the report, the city clerk currently performs the work of a city manager "without the authority or compensation for that position, (and) there is no coordinated effort to efficiently manage city staff. "

Instead of reporting to a city manager, staff members report to their commissioner, who may not be available on a daily basis, and staff members set their own work schedule and time off.

If hired, a city manager would manage staff and their work schedules, providing notifications of time off and timecard verification. The manager would report directly to the city council on staff issues and concerns.

The type of management, the GJ finds, would allow "the elected council to provide political leadership and make policy while the city manager-administrator (would) direct city departments in carrying out policy."

In regard to its wastewater plant, the GJ found that the city's wastewater rates have been too low to properly maintain and/or upgrade its system, (and) the need for higher rates should be addressed at a public meeting.

According to the GJ, the California State Water Quality Control Board has mandated the city upgrade its wastewater plant, which is approximately 30 years old and has a "sludge pond that has never been dredged (and) is as much as 85 percent full."

To pay for the dredging and upgrades, the city is seeking a $3.77 million grant/loan from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and the "urgently needed dredging" is expected to cost $200,000.

The current monthly rate for wastewater service is $45, after rates were last raised on Nov. 11, 2008. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008, (the last audit available), the GJ reports that the city's wastewater enterprise (which generates its own revenue from rate payers, impacts fees and grants and loans) had an operating loss of $19,737.

For 2009, the wastewater enterprise is "reported to be breaking even."

Other recommendations by the GJ include:

The council replace commissioners with working committees of two council members from each city department, and the appointments "shall be based on background, experience, knowledge and skill; not on favoritism or by punitive action. The appointments should last for at least one year."

The committee members should also meet and have their reports prepared before council meetings, as the GJ pointed out that "committee work is (currently) done at the monthly council meetings, making them unnecessarily long."

The city council conduct sessions to build teamwork and promote understanding of city departments.

The revolving loan fund manual, which the GJ described as "unclear and contradictory," should be "updated, corrected and posted on the city's website."

The city should monitor the financial status of the local pier - which operated at a loss of $88,863 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008 - and either "develop revenue and assure financial stability, or consider privatization to eliminate burden on the general fund."


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