We are still seeing progress and growth in many areas even though we had to control our spending due to the poor economic conditions. Once again we had to forego merit increases and cost of living increases. Changes had to be made in or insurance plan to control rising medical insurance costs.
The surcharge fee tax on insurance has enabled us to continue to provide the services our citizens expect and are entitled to without significantly reducing employees by controlling our costs for energy, maintenance, supplies and overtime. With the economic slowdown on local industries and businesses, the occupational tax revenue was reduced as we had predicted, but with the steps we had taken we essentially balanced the decreased. It appears that we are finally getting close to having a stable financial situation might even be able to start reserves.
Once again property taxes and water /sewer rates were not increased despite communities as well and throughout the state were having to generate additional sources of revenue to cover their costs of operation, However, with the controls on spending we were able to reduce our debt by over $2.0 million over the past three (3) years.
The year started out this time with the sound of trees and branches falling as we got hit with a major ice storm that caused extensive damage and in our city a thirteen (13) hour loss of power. We declared a ³state of emergency because of the extensive damage. This was a learning experience for not only us but the whole state. Debris was everywhere, lines down, no heat or lights and in some cases no water except for over flowing sewer manholes. Cell phones, computers that we are so increasingly dependent upon did not work.
All of our employees pitched in to get everything cleaned up; a temporary shelter was established in the old armory for a short time. Generators in the fire department and in the waste treatment area helped keep things fairly stable. However, we found many issues that had to be corrected; i.e. a need for more generators for the lift pumps, city hall was blind and deaf as far as communication with others and the need for a more suitable shelter was seen. All of the issues were being addressed with the requests for funding.
Our costs to handle and chip the large amount of debris (13,103 cubic feet) were $112,515.00 for which we have only been reimbursed $76,005.50 despite promises to reimburse us. We continue to ask FEMA for our money. We will be meeting with FEMA to review with them what went right and wrong.
Our going green initiative continues to see improvements with now over 100 rain barrels, creation of community gardens, retention basins and plans to further control storm water run-off including changes in building specifications to handle storm water run-off.
We are still looking at small wind mill and solar to power some of our small units and are even looking at hydro power at the waste treatment facility. All in mind to reduce energy costs and decrease our impact on the environment.
Let me discuss in some detail some of the major accomplishments of the city¹s departments.
Technology: Started the installation of the new phone system which is being paid for by a technology grant of $125,000. It will upgrade our antiquated system and allow us more flexibility and improve service as well as save $21,385.68 annually.
Putting in place a scanner system which will enable input data into a computer system in a more secure environment and enable us to retrieve the documents in a more efficient and will reduce the time and labor for retrieval and saving money.
Redoing the city's webpage to provide more information and at less cost.
Code Enforcement: We have been able to get five (5) houses demolished due to their condition. However, one (1) house was built on place of a house last year. Another house was saved since it was remodeled. Some of the many projects included establishing our community gardens. Although it got off to a slow start six (6) plots were utilized by our citizens. As far as clean up goes, citizens using the free dumpster enabled over fifteen (15) tons of debris to be sent to the dump.
The number of violations issued has increased over 400% since 2007-2008 (86) to (350) in 2008-2009 which is a direct relationship to the effort being placed on getting our city cleaned up.
Our Code Enforcement director is currently taking exams in zoning inspections, property maintenance and the legal aspects of Code Enforcement in order to become a certified code enforcement officer which will improve the condition of the city. In addition, the director is advertising and educating the public about code enforcement by speaking to various groups like churches, schools, youth groups, scouts, 4-H and Feedback.
In the Human Relations area we are currently updating the City Employee policy and procedures manual. We have seen that many areas are dramatically out of date and have not kept pace with current acceptable human resource procedures. It is our plan to make the manual more concise, usable and timely. Due to several disciplinary actions we have seen the need to restructure the existing policy.
Joann Dearmond has been given the responsibility for the running of the facility. She has added many programs such as:
* Silver Sneakers for AARP members
* Pool parties
* Massage therapy * Instructional classes on fitness
* Karate classes * Yoga classes
* Grandparents passes *Lifeguard courses
*Wellness program * Aqua bikes for the pool
* More fitness classes * Spinner bike classes
All of which has increased the membership to 1,345 which is up by 209 patrons. We continue to see increasing activities in the center and we will continue to add programs to better serve the community as it is a quality of life asset.
The drains were covered to comply with the Virginia Graham Baker law, our facility is extremely safe and we intend it to be so in the interest of public safety.
We have removed almost all of the ceiling and will watch the insulation that remains to see if during the cold weather it falls. If it doesn't present an issue we may remove the net. The net has enabled us to remain open despite some ceiling sections falling.
The cemeteries have been given a new look with the addition of lighting in both Memorial Gardens and Maple Grove. We have also paved the road around the new section of Maple Grove in order to improve the location and identification of lots, embarked on a GPS program to locate each and every plot in the cemeteries. This will improve the manual written system to a computerized system. In addition, whenever possible, this crew pitched in, in the street department, whether it was for branches, leaves, winter or whatever else was needed.
Financial: The previous year¹s audit was favorable and we expect as we embark on this year's that it too will be favorable. As mentioned over the past three (3) years we have been able to reduce our debt by over $2.0 million. Our overall financial situation has improved, but we still have to be aware of our cash flow issues, ie: revenues in the general fund peaks in a couple of months then slacks off while our spending is fairly consistent from month to month. This means we must put money aside during the peaks in order to avoid short term borrowing. One thing we have done is to pay our insurance on a quarterly basis rather than annually. This helps smooth out our spending.
The occupational tax area has been improved by straightening out the filing system, utilizing the computer system and directly contacting businesses. We are looking into a specific computer program tailored for occupational tax. It should provide the ability to create and track letters, cross reference addresses, money payments and delinquent accounts.
Relative to property taxes, the main thrust has been to reduce the number of delinquent accounts especially in the area of mobile homes. This is a special area since they may change hands, be repossessed or are relocated. Working with the PVA has helped get the list reduced.
Due to the large amount of paper involved in the financial area, it tends to accumulate over time, making it impossible to timely find the required information. To this end, the department accomplished the reorganization of the files and the destruction of over 11,000 pounds of old documents, The state's archivist assisted in this huge effort.
Grants: We have been very successful in obtaining grants. You have to realize if you do not apply you will not receive them but you do not get all you ask for unfortunately.
When the call came in for shovel ready projects we sent in a projects worth over $15.7 million. We later found out that the larger cities got first shot at them, and they were allowed to bid again in the second round against the smaller cities. We put in for over $35,843,114.69; so far we have received over $12,998,004.24 with over $ 1,136.000 still pending. The last grant we received was for $ 800,000 for the second phase of Johnson Street (Hi View Area).
We have received grants in administrative, parks, fire, police, water, street, sewer, cemetery, environmental, and to 911, and the rural fire department.
Parks: The goal of the Parks and Recreational department is to:
* Provide opportunities for all to participate in events and many activities
* Communicate with the public to keep them informed of all the available services
* Provide activities for all groups, especially the youth of the community
* Maintenance of park properties and areas of responsibility
* Operate in a fiscally and ethical manner
* Develop plans for the future recreational possibilities for the community
* Protect our trees and ensure we plant more
Some of the activities that we accomplished this year include:
* Maintained trails with mulch from chipping branches
* With aid of Little League parents we completely re-built the main field. Logan Aluminum donated the new dirt and Coffman¹s graded the field which was re-seeded.
* Numerous concerts, bashes, parties, romps, runs, walks and of course the Heritage Festival involvement.
If you keep a score card of participants it would look like this for the parks and recreation department:
* 5K run/walk saw a 16% increase in participation
* Boo Bash-300 attended
* 100 kids in punt, pass and kick
* 100 kids in Pitch, hit and run
* Seven teams in 3 on 3 basketball
* Five teams now on Jr-Pro Football
Not to mention the new expanded soccer, football and soft ball activities planned for the Recreational Complex which I will discuss in greater detail later. The controversial little folks fishing pond: created such a stir, despite its minuscule amount of funds was in my opinion much about nothing.
In order to put the issue to bed, I did fill in the storm water run-off retention basin at the request of council in order to silence the voices despite the environmental benefits.
However, in filling it in, a demonstrative rain garden and swale was established along with the underground retention basin all in the interest of going green and showing what can be done to assist our protection of our water quality without a lot of costs.
I would be remiss if we didn't mention the numerous hours of service to the community that the department gave to the community in order to support the community and its children.
We cannot forget to mention the fantastic performers of our Little League Champions. We watched and supported the team as they advanced in the state eliminations and finally won the state championship. Then they went on to win the Great Lakes Division Championship which meant they qualified for the Little League World Series. Can you imagine, a team from Russellville, Logan County being among the best eight (8) teams in the country and one of sixteen (16) in the world.
The city supported the team at each of its events, at the square, at Logan County High School and at Lewisport. The parents and fans all over the country watched and supported these ten (10) fighting ball players. We all know the final numbers but that is not the end result. These kids will never know the influence and impact they had on this community and our youth or themselves. Thank you one and all to the team, coaches, parents and supporters.
The city recognized the team at a separate city council meeting where each was given a plaque, Later, in recognition for their being in the World Series we organized a presentation with each receiving a Key to the City and a monument with all their names and the coaches names was placed in center field of the little league field to show the kids coming up what could be done. The stone and engraving was donated by Young's Funeral Home.
Police Department: The department continues to function at a reduced level, although causing some increase in overtime; costs are well controlled without any decrease in service to the public.
In fact, vehicle accidents have declined due to increased enforcement, Use of bike patrols during special events and focus in specific crime areas has proved effective. Involvement of citizens is deemed as successful due to the low crime rate.
Thanks to numerous grants the vehicles have been upgraded with new cameras and mobile data computers. Each officer is being issued the most up-to-date equipment so as to protect them and make them more effective.
Fire Department: We have a smoke alarm program in which the department has installed over 100 smoke detectors in Russellville homes. A business fire protection inspection program has been started. The objective is to inspect all business to advise them on safety and correction. The number of runs this year was 819 compared to 798 in 2008 with 543 being rescue and EMS runs. In addition, the hospital has agreed to forego the need for a fire truck in attendance when a helicopter lands. The hospital is looking at a separate safe landing area so police and fire personnel are not required unless it's an emergency. All the equipment was inspected and deemed fit for duty. There remains the issue of replacement of the ladder truck.
Utilities: The utilities area is the responsibility of the director who also has the responsibility for safety, environmental and waste treatment, I&I streets and service department (mobile equipment) and capital projects. Despite its major impact on the public it is not the costly area of the general fund. That distinction goes to the police and fire departments is in part due to overtime and mostly to pension costs.
This area was responsible for the successful completion of Johnson Street, Phase I sewer project, $1.0 k, which solved the safety and environmental issues associated with a broken system of old clay sewer pipes over 400 residents were affected. We are looking forward to Phase II to improve the quality of life for another 400 residents at a cost of $800K for Hospital Hill. We are looking now at the increased fire safety and increased water quality in that whole area.
Service Center: The office has been relocated as well as the needed equipment. Also, a divider curtain has been installed to reduce energy (heating) cost. In order to help keep critical equipment running, regular p.m.s (oil grease filter change) have been contracted out to again put the focus on keeping our equipment in line. In addition energy training on equipment operation has increased in order to reduce maintenance down time.
A new stainless steel salt spreader has been purchased along with a used truck to replace the rust bucket that was used for salt spreading.
This department never gets all the credit it deserves for there are always leaf bags, branches, trees, ditches to be cleaned, debris to be picked up, furniture, street signs, speed bumps, ditches over grown, street cuts and if you backed up in any driveway- the phone calls never stop.
To put the record straight, this department has worked extremely hard to do what is right. They may not do what the citizens want- when they want it because of limitations available labor or priorities.
Let's look at just a few things that was really done:
* Sidewalks at Rhea Stadium completed (700 feet)
* Repaired over 30 street cuts
* Picked up over 300 loads of brush
* Used the chipper truck for over 40 loads
* Ice storm clean up amounted to a total of 13.103 cubic yards of debris at a cost of $112,515.44 for which we have received only $76,005.50
* Cleaned all storm ditches
* Rebuilt over 6 storm water ditches
* Picked up over 888 bags of leaves
* Reduced manpower by two employees
* Sprayed for mosquitoes
* Completed several small sidewalk projects
This area was re-organized with I&I to provide a more functional unit. As a result shift shift coverage was reduced at a cost savings.
The assistant was re-assigned to supervise the I&I group, and the I&I supervisor was re-assigned to develop an inventory control program for the units. This was to be able to know what equipment we have, the maintenance cost and its utilization.
There is a continuous need to investigate alternative energy sources like; wind, solar and hydro power for the reduction of energy costs and environmental progress.
Regionalization is still on the top of our list for the future of our city and county. However, funding will always be an issue. There are several projects that will hopefully be out front.
GIS/GPS of the whole system as well as being able to cover the whole system will give us a more realistic insight as to the condition of the system and the future funds required.
This area received new leadership, employees and the ability to achieve the goals set forth. So far, they have achieved with distinction the opportunities afforded them. They have:
* Located many manholes that were unknown
* Reduced significant source of leakage into and out of the system of pipes
* Found several users who were not paying for their sewer service on 431 South
* Found major infusion of water into the sewer on Rolling Hills Golf Course property; developed a method to repair the 1,163 feet of line without digging it up for $5,000
* A snapshot of some of their accomplishments would include:
* Replaced 1000 feet of 6² line on Cornelius Avenue
* Repaired Rolling Hills sewer line, 1,163 feet
* Cleaned over 11,000 feet of sewer line
All in all, the department has reduced I&I to 44%, a remarkable achievement in such a short time.
The billing area has dramatically increased its ability to find and get the people who owe the city the money to pay up. We are still finding some incidents of water theft but they are being reduced through re-reading the meters in question.
The Water Department has had an excellent year and accomplished very much as illustrated by the following:
* Replaced 3,360 feet of old lines
* Installed 10,620 feet of new lines
* Fixed 68 water leaks which amounted to 473,565,600 gallons of water this year. This relates to approximately $1.5 million a year.
* Replaced five (5) old fire hydrants
* Repaired 59 hydrants
* Placed in service 15 new fire hydrants
* Put in 24 new water services and replaced 45 old services.
The water department had an outstanding year, reducing costs, improving services, and responding to citizen's needs quickly.
Let me talk briefly about some of the capital projects.
Johnsons Street Phase I Completed: The project imported the lines of 400 residents making it possible for them to have proper sewer service. It reduced I&I, prevented over flow and leakage (kids were playing in raw sewage) and improved the flow to the treatment plant. The critical numbers are :
1,910 linear feet of new 12² lines
510 linear feet of new 8²lines
Chemical grout 3,146 of 15² lines
Pipe burst 3,146 feet of 15² line
At a costs of $734,000 all of which were covered by free money. NO TAX MONEY DID THIS PROJECT.
Johnson Street Phase II :We were successful in obtaining an $800,000 grant/loan (1%) from KIA (stimulus) in order to extend new and renovate sewer lines for over 5,830 linear feet of existing sewer by means of pipe bursting, open cut 1,450 linear feet of existing sewer line and replacement of Hi-View lift station with 400 gpm pumps at an estimated cost of $826,176. We will open bids on this December 21st 2009 and will not finish the project until early 2010. This phase will impact over 400 citizens and position us for expansion of residents in that area as well as along the 68-8- by-pass.
Hospital Hill Water Project Completed: This project influences over 400 residences who had low water pressure, which was a major safety issue not only because of fire protection, but also low water pressure in the individual homes. It also allows the city to be prepared for future development. Some of the critical numbers are:
* Installed 832 linear feet of 8² ductile pipe
* Put in 2,898 linear feet of 8² PVC lines
* Put in new 6² PVC for 164 linear feet
* Installed over 4,240 linear feet of 10² PVC pipe
* Placed a 200,000 water tank
All of this at a cost of $706,000, which was covered by free money and no cost to the citizens. NO TAX MONEY FUNDED THIS PROJECT.
Ninth Street-Rhea Stadium Water Line Completed: This project involved installing a new 6¹ PVC line to replace a leaking 2² line and improve the water pressure (fire protection). At the time when the wall project (straighten) we took advantage of the opportunity to install the line where the area would be opened. A quick summary of the project is as follows:
* Over 1,400 linear feet of new 6² PVC line
* Added 2 new fire hydrants
All of this at a cost to the city of $60,000 to provide better fire protection to the Ninth St. area.
There are several smaller dollar-wise projects but never the less are extremely important. I will only list them and show their cost and area impact:
* COPS Hiring Program grant-$166,092
* Hi-View project -$200,000; grant, sewer line
* Fire- mobile communication unite-grants $15,000
* Police-infrared binoculars-$5,000
* 911 grant-$7,426
* Fire protection-$2,299.98-lap tops
* Homeland Security grant-police/fire $115.000
* KIA Safety grant-earphones; fire-$3,593
* Police and fire; safety measures grant-$51,000
* Police grants-$48,175.13
There are two (2) road projects that have had and will continue to have a major impact on safety, development and cost in the long run:
* Shelton Lane Completed- $240,000 (loan; provided a widened road (22 ft) and improvement of the total road. A turn lane at a cost of $70,000 was added at our request to improve the safety in the left turn option.
* Woodland Drive/Forest Park Drive Completed: $107,347 (grant). The city spent considerable time and effort to provide the case for the road which does several things; get truck traffic off of 431 North (school). We had a lot of help from the Logan County Fiscal Court and Butler County in building a new base for a road-stabilization: The work on Woodland has been completed on time and below the budgeted amount.
Russellville Recreational Complex-$1.5 million (free money; no tax dollars): The ONLY major project that remains to complete on the free money received from the state Environmental Cabinet to develop as recreational park for the citizens of Russellville.
Initially, we looked at a turn-key project, but after several discussions with the top turf suppliers and contractors we found that the going rate was approximately $7.00-$10.00 a square foot for the base and the turf.
It did not take a rocket scientist to realize that with the two (2) soccer fields at 140,000 square feet and a ball field of 80,000 sq. ft, that $1.5 million would not cover the estimated $1,540,000 just for the fields. We needed at a minimum; fencing for security, a concession stand for revenue, temporary lighting, until the need could be established. Certainly we would like the other parts of the vision but we knew that we would need these donated.
I think the accompanying table will illustrate what we were able to do by splitting the various requirements for the recreational park:
Current market price
Base cost: actual (2) fields-$1.67 sq. ft. $166,002.75 = $1.19 sq ft $3.00/sq ft
Turf cost-Bid (2): $3.00 a square foot $457,601.00 =$3.27 sq ft $4.00/sq ft
Two (2) fields $623,603.75 =$4.46 sq ft $7.00/sq ft
For example, the last field we visited in North Carolina cost over $700,000 just for the base and the turf, by one of current suppliers, however, combined with our base contractor costs our field amounts to a cost of $624,000 for two fields. It is because of negotiations that we were able to do which enabled us to get the fencing, concession stand/rest room and maintenance building, utilities for 1 ½ fields, the foundation for the ball field and many electrical benefits.
Another table I have generated (attached) in response to questions for us to, after two (2) years into the project was, to consider Bermuda grass fields or the turf to reduce the cost and allow for other items to be included in the project now.
It shows that sod and turf, based on our actual costs would be fairly close in value. However, when you consider the additional labor requirements, capital equipment, many required maintenance programs the time and ability to use the fields, over the long haul, by far the turf is the best financial decision due to the utilization of sod versus turf (sod maintenance cost /cost per year for turf), manpower requires (source is Bowling Green).
Someone has to cut the sod, fertilize it, aerate it, thatch it, water it, paint lines, and give it tender loving care. Someone has to do it-Bowling Green has 3 people to do that function. It is not your front lawn.
In my mind the only decision based on the weather- when do we install the turf and get the kids on the fields?
We are looking at the following kids using the fields- grass can not support this kind of activity and sod will not draw tournaments. With turf we will draw tournaments and people which will impact the economy of our city and county. The number of potential usages:
Soccer youth; 200
Soft ball; girls-380
Softball ; kids-370
Little League-5 teams plus
Not to mention concerts, band shows, movies, etc. all of which will produce revenue.
All things considered we have had a great year, thanks to all the city employees and their dedication, our ability to communicate our needs to the state, because of the relationships we have established over time and the trust that was with our state representative and state departments.
I thank you for the opportunity to work with some of the most talented city employees who are all dedicated and try to do what is right for the city and the citizens of this whole community.
We have had a very successful year and I am very proud to be a part of the continuation of progress.
We, I feel because of the actions the employees are prepare are positioned for the future.