October 23, 2014

Council approves new truck over objections of member

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com

Council members Larry Fotovich and Chris Morrow asked that two items be pulled off the consent agenda. Items on the consent agenda are typically considered general business items that don’t merit discussion, but Morrow requested that an item to approve the purchase of a new city truck be moved to new business, and Fotovich requested members discuss the standing approval of the city’s expenditures over the last several weeks.

City staff requested to purchase a two-ton full-size pick-up for $19,055 for the public works water treatment division. The new truck would replace a compact pick up truck with 141,000 miles on it. The truck is used as a shuttle vehicle to take employees between water treatment sites.

“One-hundred and forty-one thousand miles give or take… That seems gently used,” Morrow said.

David Greene, city public works director, said council members approved the purchase in this year’s budget. He explained that in the last two years, the existing truck has had more than $5,000 in maintenance cost including work on its brakes, diagnostics system and routine maintenance.

“We’re anticipating more issues,” Greene said. “You can always delay, but you’re looking at more issues. This one’s tired.”

He said city trucks are typically replaced after 10 years in service, but the current truck is 13 years old.

Mayor Dave Drovetta said the city’s vehicle-replacement program allows council members to budget for replacements over time in small bits.

“We’ve delayed this. We do utilize these vehicles tremendously,” he said.

Council member Kristina Harrison wondered if there weren’t a less expensive vehicle the city could purchase, but Greene said a sedan wouldn’t work, and a compact truck would be more expensive than what the staff was proposing.

Council approved the purchase on a split vote with Morrow and Fotovich opposing.

Fotovich also opposed the standing approval of more than $741,970 in city expenditures.

Council members received 36 pages of expenditures to approve.

“There are 36 pages of items that don’t have any information behind them,” he said.

For example, Fotovich listed a $704 payment to Olathe Wind and Water Works.

“Digital web cast, $500. What is that?” Fotovich asked.

He said he wasn’t prepared to sign off on purchases if he didn’t know what they were.

Mayor Dave Drovetta said the purpose of council is to establish policies.

“Our position is not to manage the day-to-day business of the city,” Drovetta said.

Interim city administrator Melissa Mundt said she can pull up specifics about each purchase, but that all of the purchases had been approved by council during the budget process.

Council member Kristina Harrison suggested that in the future council members could do a process similar to the school board. Two school board members examine all of the expenditures with school staff members an hour before each meeting.

“I don’t know if that’s something that would help,” she said.

Council member Brian Broxterman called the question, and the approval passed with Fotovich opposing.

In other business, council members:

• Re-zoned a 2.08-acre property at 980 E. Santa Fe from general industrial to planned commercial.

• Approved the establishment of an agreement with the Kansas Department of Transportation to participate in a federal fund exchange that would partially pay for the engineering design of upgrades to the intersection of Center Street and Main. Council also approved the hiring of TransSystems to do the design of the project for $153,102. Under the federal fund exchange agreement with KDOT, the city would pay approximately $46,000 for the design. The rest would flow from federal coffers to KDOT and then to the city for the project’s design.

• Approved a boundary agreement between Johnson County Rural Water No. 7 (JCRW7) and the city that will transfer two rural Gardner water customers to JCRW7.
Held an executive session to discuss land acquisition.

Comments

  1. GardnerPride says:

    I think that Morrow and Fotovich are asking relevant questions in regards to budget expenditures, but I think they need to place their focus on the 2012 budget planning sessions. As Mundt said, these expenditures have already been approved for the 2011 budget, and plans have executed according to that budget. I think a line by line review is in the best interest of the city, and each council member should begin their line of questions for next year’s budget right now.

  2. It is so good to see positive results from the recent election. We need a few more to get our house cleaned up – hope we don’t go bankrupt before the people get their heads on straight.

    Drovetta continues to support the theory of the council to ask no questions – he wants his machine to operate in the cronyism way it has operated for years to the detriment of the people. When I see the day the Council not only asks questions but brings about needed changes, the people will be in a better position. The Council still has not answered my concerns about a city vehicle idling 85 minutes straight causing the waste of taxpayer money for fuel and even worse, polluting the air. We have an ordinance against idling in excess of 10 minutes but that ordinance is not followed by the city nor does it apply to city vehicles due to the way the ordinance was written. When I see things like that occurrring, I will be asking quesions all day long – someone should be held accountable for letting that to occur and the Council, the Mayor and city administration should certainly be asking questions about an issue of that kind and making needed changes.

    I have often thought that the city needs to have their checkbook on open display on the city’s website. Every deposit of revenue should be indicated and where the money came from and every check that is written, it should show the payor, what the payment is for and who signed off on it. It’s the people’s money and they need to know where the money is coming from and where and how it is being spent. The finance department should easily do this each day. And every single bit of revenue needs to be accounted for and shown and then indicated where the money went. I believe the state does this and we should do this so well that a 4th grader could understand the process.

    I have never heard of a School Board member question the school staff on expenditures, have you????? Nor have I heard of a citizen doing so? The citizens and elected officials are not doing their jobs at all levels of government – once again, I say, look in the mirror to find the person responsibile for most of our problems. You are going to have to hold some people accountable and responsible and many positive changes are going to have to be made. The good ole Drovetta method of just setting policy just will not cut it and never has – that is why our country is suffering so now. You are going to have to fire some of these jerks for the poor job they are doing and you have to monitor constantly so the house doesn’t catch fire.

  3. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    Council’s after-the-fact micromanaging of city staff’s expenditures for previously approved budgetary items is unwarranted, in my opinion. The effects of this type of leadership style on personnel and on morale are usually disruptive, divisive and counterproductive. After doing some reading this morning on micromanagement, I didn’t find anyone who touted it as an effective method of leadership.

    In any group, whether a church leadership council or a city governing body, there has to be a dynamic balance between micromanagement and reasonable oversight, and the balance changes as membership in the group changes. It was suggested that a group be understanding of a temperamental curiosity seeker while remaining on guard against the outright nitpicking control freak. Whether temperamentally or intellectually driven, however, a nitpicker’s insistence on detail after detail rarely wears down opposition to the result being sought by the nitpicker, although that insistence can lead to the derailment (pardon me) of the group’s decision-making effectiveness.

    At the extreme, obsession with detail can lead to an uneasy feeling that there may a single detail out there which will undo all that you know, or think you know. More commonly, if permitted, it just promotes ineffective wandering and off-focus discussions.

    Someone once compared the end results of Winston Churchill’s and Adolph Hitler’s styles of micromanagement leadership. Churchill was kicked out of office almost immediately after WWII ended. Hitler committed suicide.

    I would imagine that the City Charter assigns ultimate responsibility for the citizens’ safety and well-being to the City Council, and towards that end the Council should provide philosophical governance policy to our paid administrators and staff. In my opinion, micromanagement of the daily operations delegated to our competent and dedicated public employees, including their handling of the Council’s approved budget, does not foster good public service.

    Now would be a great time for Council to discuss the wisdom of a new governance policy for the City of Gardner. If the necessity for change is agreed to, I suggest this policy be immediately conveyed to applicants for the open position of City Administrator and be part of the candidate interviewing process and hiring criteria.

    It seems to me the time to address issues like those brought forth by council members last Monday should be during the upcoming budget discussions and in concordance with any new, if adopted, governance policy.

    On a lighter note, I just read a recent Time Magazine article about the FBI which noted that the agency to this day “still cannot buy a box of pencils without filling out Form FD-369 in quintuplicate – using carbon paper.”

  4. I relish seeing an elected official in this day and age providing oversight that has been so needed during the years of rubber stamp government that has brought us to the point we are in today. I want all of the oversight I can get and I am not too particular about how it is done.

    During the intermodal review committee meetings I came home one evening and shipped off an e-mail to Lehman and Drovetta and told both of them I was so glad Winston Churchill was in charge during World War II instead of the two of them because if they were in charge at that time, I would now be speaking German.

    I am so glad to see Council members such as Fotovich and Morrow asking the questions and working for a better system than the one we have had for years and which has brought about such a huge debt, spending with the credit card, allowing waste, selling off our fire department, taking care of the big boys instead of the citizens, etc., etc.

    If you think this is micro-managing then that is your choice – I see wanting responsible and accountable government as a needed imporvement and any Council Member can ask all the questions they want and the city staff and the Mayor should gladly receive them and answer the questions just like they should do for the citizens who own this city. The Council, Mayor and city administration serve at the will of the people and they don’t need to be whining about someone looking over their shoulder – we need lots of that instead of less and it should be encouraged – the people do need to be involved in their government so they don’t end up like Bell, Ca. and many more states and cities and even our federal government who are facing huge problems due to not enough oversight.

    To me those who only want a Council to just set policy are those who want to wheel and deal as they please and as we have seen for so long and especially with a Council that rubber stamps anything placed before them. That type of government will never provide the safety net for the people that they deserve in my opinion. For too, too long Council members have been given only the information some want to give out. The message and information is controlled closely to get the results certain parties want. This has to stop and only decent elected officials can make a difference for their people – that is my opinion.

  5. Jerry L Kellogg Sr says:

    In response to my request, Public Works Director David Greene replied that the questioned invoice was paid to Olathe Winwater Works, a supplier of pipe, pumps, and hardware for water and wastewater utilities, for:

    • Special equipment and hardware required to relocate a fire hydrant
    • Tapping saddles and corporation stops required to connect water service lines to water mains

    These are routine purchases of materials required by the Line Maintenance crew for the operation and maintenance of Gardner’s water distribution system.

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