Wednesday, February 4, 2009

February 3, 2009 Council Meeting

Gene P. spoke for Public Works, and told us that the City is still working with MP&L on the electric service for a home in Buhl. The home owner has found that the power is typically low by about 13 or 14 volts.

The Recreation Board asked for $750 for a winter party called the Winter Frolic. The Council approved this.

The Sheriff told us that the Buhl Squad car is deteriorating, and we will need to purchase a new vehicle soon, most likely before next winter. The cost should be around $27,000. The current vehicle is a 2005 and has nearly 96,000 miles on it.

The Mayor informed everyone that Northland Village is open and taking new residents. Northland Village is an assisted living center located on the south side of Buhl near Hwy 169.

The agenda started with Shari informing the council that she spoke to the Police Chief for Chisholm concerning police protection. Shari had a few discussions with the Police Chief concerning service with their department and what the cost would be. The Chief told Shari that the total cost per year would be about $90,000, although he would need to know exactly what the Sheriff contract consisted of before he could give a specific bid. The Chisholm Chief of Police attended the meeting, but before he came to our meeting, he asked permission from the Chisholm City Council to attend and to come up with a bid package if the City of Buhl requested one.

This was the only real discussion of the meeting, and it ended with a vote to keep the Sheriff Department as the sole provider of Police protection for Buhl. The vote was 3-2 to keep the Sheriff and not accept a bid from Chisholm. Voting for Sheriff only protection was the mayor, Colin G. and Jesse W. Voting against was Shari S. and myself.

My issue was.... lets get as many bids as we can and take the lowest/best bid. In my opinion, nothing could be lost by asking Chisholm to bid on police protection. The Chisholm Chief said that it would be 24/7 service for $90,000/year. We currently pay the Sheriff Department $85,000/year for 40 hours of service. Additionally, we purchase a $25,000 vehicle every 4 years for the Sheriff, and the City of Buhl provides computer and other expensive ancillary equipment for the Sheriff that we would not have to provide to the Chisholm Police.

My point is this.... it is always in the best interest of the public to investigate competitive bids. We should not always accept the lowest bid, be we should always accept the best bid. The Mayor and other two council members decided that Buhl should not accept other bids.

As to the reasons for the vote. Colin G. did state his reasons for his vote, I disagreed with him, but that's ok. At least he told the public his reason for not wanting another bid. Jesse W. had a conflict over what he wanted to say, and what he wanted to state in public. He explained his vote to me in private after the meeting. I still think that we should have accepted a bid, however Jesse's reasons are valid and would have seriously influenced my decision to accept Chisholm as our police provider. The mayor though gave no reason for his vote.

I have been a Union Representative for 15 years. In that time, I have learned that you should never enter negotiations with a position on the subject. You should only have issues that need to be resolved. Our mayor always has a position, but rarely is open to discuss the issues. I'll continue to work on him.

Next we reviewed the 2008 budget and found that there was $12,404 left over at the end of 2008. Thanks to Mary, Mike and the whole City of Buhl crew, we once again ended the year with some money left over. If you see any of the crew, thank them for not over spending taxpayer money.

We briefly talked about the 2009 budget, and I have no reason to think that we will over spend in 2009.

We next talked about SWOP, the Summer Work Outreach Project. In the past, Buhl has given SWOP $500/year to do work around Buhl. For 2009, due to the current budget issues, we voted against giving money to SWOP.

Next we voted against giving money to the Chisholm, Buhl, Balken Summer Recreation program. Previously, we gave $1200/year to this program. A few years ago 8 or more Buhl children would attend this program. But last year only two attended daily. We decided that the money would be better spent on Buhl's summer rec program, if it is spent at all.

We did get some comments on the police issue from a concerned citizen, but the comments were after the vote, so there was no impact to the vote from this citizen.

Let me know what you think.


Jesse White said...

Chris, besides my personal feelings on the Chisholm Police Department, I had other concerns. First, a rough quote from the Chisholm Chief came in roughly $20,000 more than what we are paying now. Second, The coverage offered was essentially what the Sheriff's offer now. They are covering us 24/7, with a 40 hour scheduled work week, which I believe is what the Chisholm Chief was also alluding to in Shari's letter. Third, I guarantee we would have also had to purchase squad cars under any agreement with Chisholm as it would be used in Buhl and the Chisholm Police Department has traditionally had budget battles with the Chisholm City Council. The squad car covering Buhl would be the first thing brought up every time the council and dept squared off at budget time. There's no way we would get their services without paying for the vehicle. Fourth, if we are going to be a city without an actual police force in town than I feel comfortable going to sleep at night knowing we have the resources of the County Sheriff's Department protecting us. Finally, we are lucky to have someone like Sgt. Mackenzie working with the city of Buhl. He seems to care a great deal about the city and I feel he looks at us as more than a job. He comes to all of our meetings and is in constant communication. He has been like that for years. In fact, even before the Sheriff's were in Buhl I can remember him driving through town. I don't think we would have had that sort of relationship with the Chisholm Police Department. And in the end I don't think the price difference would have been that significant. In fact, I think it would have cost us more.

Chris Primeau said...

Fair comments. I agree that the service from the Sheriff is great.

We budget $90K every year for the Sheriff, but don't spend that much. We spent $76K last year, since we only bill for the hours used, and Kinney picks up some of the tab. Mary said that there is @$310,000 in the PERA fund. In a couple of years, that will be a problem.

As I wrote, your issues are valid ones. The history of the Chisholm Police Department and the Chisholm Council is something I'm not familiar with. The discussion was only to accept bids. Water under the bridge now. I do have a problem with councilors getting mad and not discussing the issue.

We need to get together on this personnel committee thing. Let me know when you've got time.