City managers discuss utility board
City managers discussed the possibility of the city establishing a utility board at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
Researching the possibility of a utility board, City Administrator Phillip Patterson commissioned Electrical Service Manager Phil Stokes, Chief Financial Officer Christina Petriches and Public Works Manager Steve Gorszczyk to research the issue.
Gorszczyk, Petriches and Stokes researched different utility boards and found four towns that provide the same number of utilities as Siloam Springs. The City of Siloam Springs provides electrical, sanitation, sewer, and water services to the public.
The cities that were examined were Bentonville, Clarksville and Hope in Arkansas, as well as Pryor in Oklahoma, Patterson said.
The Hope Water & Light utility board began in 1957, Patterson said. The city’s utility board consists of five members with five years of staggered service and controls all utility operations, including rates and debt, Patterson said.
The Hope Utilities Board also pays administrative fees to the Town of Hope and provides free utilities to town facilities, Patterson said.
The town of Pryor was established in 1951 and, like Hope, the utility board consists of five members with staggered five-year terms, Patterson said.
The Pryor Utilities Board oversees utility operations, provides rate recommendations to the city council, and members are compensated the same as the Pryor City Council, Patterson said.
Annual transfers are made to the city budget, Patterson said. In addition to annual transfers, all excess revenue is transferred to the city’s general fund and debt requires voter approval, Patterson said.
The Clarksville Utilities Board was formed in 1960 and consists of five members with staggered five-year terms, oversees the operation of utilities and provides rate recommendations to Clarksville City Council, Patterson said.
Long-term debt and bonds require City Council approval and no compensation is paid to council members. The utility board pays a five percent franchise fee to the city, Patterson said.
Bentonville had its shortest utility board, Patterson said. The city established its utility board in 2019 and consists of five members with two-year terms and a two-year term limit, Patterson said.
The utility board oversees the operation of Bentonville’s utilities and recommends rates to the city council, Patterson said. The debt requires city council approval and its members are paid $250 a month, Patterson said.
Members are required to attend eight hours of training, including one hour of ethics training before the end of the first year, Patterson said.
The utility board pays a 5% franchise fee to the city and provides free utilities to the city, Patterson said.
Director Lesa Rissler liked the idea of the utility board, but said decision-making should be left to city council.
She also said she liked the idea of training the members of the utility board and was in favor of the idea of making recommendations to the city council.
“I see it more as an advisory board in my opinion than utility management,” Rissler said.
Rissler also said she was open to discussing how it was being handled. Principal Carol Smiley also sees the utility board as an advisory board and thinks the city council should retain some degree of control.
“I think this council would be the one looking at utility rates, but we would make those decisions,” Smiley said.
Smiley said she sees the utility board as the planning commission and that five years is an adequate term for utility board members. Finally, Smiley said trustees need to be open to what the utility board is saying.
Manager Reid Carroll said he would like the city to move forward with a utility board, but was undecided on the particular direction it should take.
“I’d like to see us dig into that and get a clearer picture of what we’re going to do with it,” Carroll said.
Director Mindy Hunt agreed with the recommendations made by Rissler and Smiley, but also said utility board members should be compensated like planning commission members.
“I think if we…compensate the planning commission, we should compensate this council as well, probably at the same kind of rate,” Hunt said.
In October 2020, the city council voted to add the creation of a utility board to the list of council goals 2021-2022 and when the city voted to suspend utility rate increases, manager David Allen called for the creation of a utility board to study utility tariffs. annually.
The City Managers also approved and heard the following:
• Regular minutes of the municipal council meeting of March 15th.
• Resolution 20-22 regarding a final development permit for 23006 Lawlis Road.
• Consecration of utility easements for 816 Main Street East.
• Dedication of drainage easements for the 2800 block of East Kenwood Street.
Contracts and Approvals
• Contract for the Willows Addition drainage mitigation project with Curtis Construction Inc. in the amount of $99,399.
• Modification of order no. 3 with Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company Inc. in the amount of $69,542.
• Place Ordinance 22-08 regarding the rezoning of the 1200 block of South Holly Street from conditional R-4 to standard R-4 at third reading and then proceed to a separate vote to adopt the ordinance. An R-4 zone is a multi-family residential zone.
• Place Order 22-09 regarding the rezoning of 799 S. Lincoln St from C-2 to RO at first reading.
• Place Order 22-10 on service extension charges at first reading.
• Place Ordinance 22-11 regarding restricted parking on certain streets on three readings and proceed to a separate vote to pass the ordinance.
• An emergency clause to make Order 22-11 effective immediately.
• Resolution 19-22 regarding a final flat development permit for the 2200 block of North Carl Street.
• Resolution 21-22 regarding a major development permit for 3505 Route 412 East.
• Resolution 22-22 regarding 1113 E. Ashley St.
• Resolution 23-22 concerning an incentive to connect a 240 volt socket to recharge electric vehicles.
• Updating of the treatment plant.
• Sale of alcohol on Sunday.
• February financial statements.
• Administrator’s report.