by Alan McArthur
A local Parkville resident has recently begun to express several concerns about financial matters in the city.
Gordon Cook, resident since 1994 and a certified public accountant by trade, has had conversations with some city officials about topics of concern.
One such topic is the construction of a new city hall in the middle of the Parkville Commons area.
Cook said that in a 2004 Capital Improvement Program Bond issue, voters approved the issuing of $1 million to expand city hall. According to Cook, the city has now used $3.6 million in 2006 participation certificates for the new city hall and approximately $200,000 for furnishing inside the building. This was done without going to the voters for approval.
In an email sent to some Parkville residents, Gerry Richardson, an alderman who was elected mayor last week over Tom Hutsler, addressed the issue of the city hall.
“I was not on the board at the time, but as I understand it, the actual cost to improve the old city hall would have been far more than the $1,000,000 allotted and the alternative approach of a lease/purchase of a new city hall actually yielded some cash to place back in the general fund,” said Richardson.
Cook said the city committed to voters in the 2004 bond issue to install stationary train horns in Parkville. According to Cook, the bond project said it would cost $165,000 to install the horns.
The stationary horn would be installed in conjunction with the downtown area being designated as a “quiet zone.” A quiet zone requires trains to not blow their horns in a certain area.
Richardson said the horns were one item that was being considered for implementation to test the technology at one of the track crossings in downtown.
“It is now old technology,” said Richardson, Parkville mayor. “My memory of the issue was to put in one at an intersection to test the technology to see if it would work.”
The city has recently heard proposals about ways to implement a quiet zone in Parkville. Proposals include improved crossing gates and redesigned roadways leading to the crossing.
Another concern for Cook is the increased cost of sewer fees. According to Cook, the city sold the sewer plant in 2003 and is currently leasing it back under a 20-year term.
Cook said that after looking over the audited financial statements for the sewer plant dating back to at least 1993, the city sewer fund Cpoperated in a financial deficit until 2004.
According to Cook, an average size user in 1998 would have paid a sewer fee of $180 and in 2008 the same user would now pay in excess of $600.
Cook expressed concern at the city's delayed completion of the 2006 audit report until January 2008.
“Normally they would be complete by the sixth month,” said Cook. “January 2008 is the thirteenth month. I am not aware of any filing deadlines; it is just a matter of good business practice.”
According to Richardson, the delay was caused when the city changed the firm it uses to conduct audits.
“It is my understanding that obtaining the information from the previous auditor took a long time,” said Richardson. “I was not on the board except at the end.”
The city switched auditing firms after 2006 to a larger firm.
Richardson said the previous firm was slow to get some needed items to the new firm and some of the documents may have never been given, requiring the new firm to recreate items delaying the process.
On Tuesday night, the board of aldermen approved an agreement with Berberich Trahan & Co., the larger audit firm, to conduct the audit for 2007.