By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
The annual distribution of the William Mahan Harman Memorial Fund took place prior to the City of Parsons Regular City Council meeting. All members of the council were present along with Mayor Dorothy Judy, City Administrator and Treasurer Jason Myers, Financial Director Danielle Sponaugle, Director of Five Rivers Library Nancy Moore, and Dennis Filler, Board President of the Library Board.
Prior to the beginning of presentations by the applicants to the council for consideration, Myers stated, “Last year, we knew we over extended ourselves, we didn’t do that this year.” Last year, The Parsons City Cemetery Committee requested $50,000 with an allocation of $40,000, Parks and Recreation asked for $207,901 and received $185,000, Five Rivers Public Library requested $140,000 and received $79,000, and the Benefit of the Citizens of Parsons asked for $742,366 and received $604,000. The total distribution in 2019 equaled $908,000.
Myers went over the projected operating budget for the cemetery which listed revenues from unencumbered fund balance, interest, $50,000 requested Harman fund contributions, sales of grave lots, and grave labor receipts for a total $163,746.42. The total expenditures were listed as payroll and benefits at $60,000, administrative and general fees of $1,500, $4,000 for utilities, $2,000 for buildings and grounds, $1,000 for equipment, $500 towards legal publications, $200 to training and education, $10,000 for professional services, audit costs of $1,500, insurance and bonds of $1,500, $3,000 for supplies and materials, $1,000 to fuel, oil, and tires, $70,000 for capital outlay for land, $5,000 to capital outlay of equipment, with a final line item of contingency of $2,546.42, thus bringing the total expenditures to $163,746.42. Myers stated that, looking towards the future, the cemetery will be running out of room, therefore money is being set aside to purchase more land. “We’ve probably got two years, maybe or a little more than two years and that section is going to be full at the rate we’re going,” he said. “The cemetery is not doing anything special this year, just strictly operating,” he continued, stating that this draw pays into their salaries.
Parsons Parks and Recreation’s proposal followed as presented by Councilman Tim Auvil. “Parks is also in the same boat that the cemetery was last year, though some of us may not remember that due to our short fall last year, we actually last year if anybody remembers had $386,500 pre allocated before our meeting last year,” he began. “So, due to the short fall, knowing we wasn’t going to have enough funding for the parks also, I reluctantly agreed, that we would only ask for a nine month operation cost also request.” Therefore, he explained the increase in request this year was to receive 15 months worth of funds to get back on an annual schedule. “The Wellness Center right now has depleted all funds from the Harman money,” Auvil continued. He explained that $6,000 rental fees are paid from Parks and Rec into the general fund for access to the equipment at the garage at $500 per month. “The admin fees and that together is $32,583 a year,” he said which comes out of whatever they are allocated. The revenues coming into the Parks and Recreation Committee listed on the projected operating budget included $295,000 from the Harman Fund, $20,258.77 from unencumbered fund balance, $3,000 from rental fees, $3,000 in donations, fundraising for the parks at $4,000, fundraising for the lights at the ball park at $1,000, interest at $9, and $200 for hotel occupancy tax equaling $326,467.77. Within that total, the proposed expenditures include $115,000 for payroll and benefits, $1,500 in administrative and general expenses, $28,000 for utilities, $33,200 for maintenance and repairs, $100 in postage, $500 in advertising and publications, $200 towards training and education, $20,000 in professional services, audit costs at $1,500, insurance and bonds for $8,000, $12,000 for supplies and materials, $500 for fuel, $7,500 in rent, $800 for inventory, capital outlay for other improvements at $88,545 and $4,622.77 in contingencies to total $326,467.77. Auvil continued to break down some of the projects desired to complete for the parks such as improvements to the playground equipment, a desire to install a basketball court, ADA compliant bathrooms, and many other proposals. This brought Auvil to request a total contribution of $340,000.
Filler with Five Rivers Library presented their request for $140,500. The break down was presented with benefits, insurance, and basic library services making up $112,000 and $28,500 to be dedicated to materials, such as books, DVD’s, programming, and a UScan system. “Folks those are where our archives are,” explained Filler as he described the use of the $6,000 machine. “We’ve been able to support it up until this time,” he said, but they are no longer able to do that. A project plan is in place to finish digitizing The Parsons Advocates, which Filler says, “they are a part of county history.” An upgrade for the broadband internet system is in dire need. With school being out and students utilizing the library internet, students are trying to complete their work on three megabits of speed. The goal is to install a 100 megabit service but must offer content filtering capabilities. Before moving on, Councilwoman Melissa Jones commended the library on their programs offered, such as toddler time and the benefits it provides to the community.
The final proposal for the consideration of contribution from the Harman Memorial Fund was that of the Benefit of the Citizens of Parsons presented again by Auvil. The total requested was $806,500 with a large list of projects they hope to achieve. This list included the following allocation requests: $15,000 for water line replacement, $35,000 for an Itron leak detection system, $7,000 towards water treatment plant repairs, $50,000 for wastewater system improvements, $5,000 towards lagoon treatment, omni proportional flow valves for $9,000, $75,000 towards street paving, $10,000 for sidewalks, $15,000 towards the Spruce Street storm drainage improvements, $20,000 for a lean-to structure at the city maintenance shop, $12,000 for a backhoe lease purchase agreement, $10,000 for shop tools and a tire machine, $15,000 towards a dump truck lease purchase agreement, $3,000 for spring and fall clean up events, $10,000 allocated to the Annual PVFD Equipment Fund, $85,000 for the Parsons Police Department for salaries and benefits, $50,000 for Parsons Economic Development Authority for consulting services and grant match, $25,000 for pond restoration, $15,000 for fairs and festivals, a demolition fund allocation of $75,000, $25,000 to the City Utilities Stabilization Fund, Parsons Community Center renovations for $25,000, ADA bathroom for $80,000, $51,000 to Parsons Revitalization Organization (PRO) for the McDonald building, $4,500 for a 2015 Ford Explorer lease purchase payments, $12,000 for a 2019 Ford F-250 truck lease payment agreement, and finally $50,000 for the Rainy Day Fund. Auvil went through each line item and explained the thought process behind the quotes presented to perform each desired project.
Before moving forward, it was asked about contradicting information received regarding salaries and wages being paid for out of the Harman Fund. It has been quoted in other meetings that this does not happen; however, on all four applications there was an expenditure listed for benefits and salaries excluding the City Police Department. “That’s just not correct,” replied Auvil. “The only thing we’re not allowed to pay with it is our bond payments,” he added. “But I say, Mayor, says we don’t want to have that paying our salaries because then we’re really in trouble, so I say that a lot, I don’t know who else has said it,” said Judy. “I wouldn’t have said it,” added Myers. “We’re allowed to pay salaries,” contributed Recorder Bruce Kolsun. “It’s not in the will,” said Judy. Judy feels that the confusion occurred because she “probably said it because I don’t think that we should be relying on it for our salaries,” but in fact it does.
Jones stated that she felt the fund covering the police salaries is acceptable because they serve a benefit to the people of the city. “Because if we didn’t have the Harman Fund we wouldn’t have Jake (Kopec),” Jones added.
Once the requests were made, Judy went through the council to see if any member had any comments they’d like to say regarding their budget. Each member was responsible for allocating the funds where they felt best suitable to total the $1,006,250. Auvil, who proposed $35,000 for cemetery, $325,000 to Parks and Rec, $65,000 to the library, and $581,250 to the BCP, began by addressing the library. “I took my numbers directly from your budget, divided by 12 which included the $72,000 per year management reserves, taking it into account that we’ve got four more months because your packet included your available funds up to the end of February, so you’ve got four months to go, so that came out to $20,475 a month, that includes the reserves,” he said. “Taking that off for four months, and then the amount of money that’s shown that’s still in your accounts leaves you with a balance of $46,000 to the good, so that’s how I came up with my particular number which actually will still give you a one month, at least one month reserve and that’s how I came up with my numbers on that one,” he said. He went through some of the line items on the BCP proposals to justify his reductions made, including eliminating the ADA bathrooms and basketball court at Mill Race Park which was a unanimous agreement across the entire council.
Councilmen Samuel Blosser, Kenneth Morrison, and David Greenlief had no comments relating to their proposals bringing the Mayor to Jones. “The only thing I want to say about mine is why I only allotted PRO $19,000, and the reason is this” she began. “For the last eight Harman meetings that I have attended and had a proposal for I’ve asked for financials, we’ve got them one time for one month. We expect everyone else to give us financials when requesting money,” she said. “Well we’d of done that if we’d of known,” said Judy who commented that the PRO member responsible has been sick. “I understand that, but it has been requested for every Harman meeting has it not Tim (Auvil)?” Jones inquired. “I don’t remember requesting the finances,” he responded. “But another thing that really upset me was while I was on vacation there was a Blueprint Committee meeting,” Jones continued. “There was some talk amongst some of the people, and I’ve heard it off the street and around that really upset me, and the talk was that it was mentioned that PRO may end up selling that building at one point in time.” Auvil agreed, stating, “I would like a stipulation made with this application, that a deed restriction be put in place, not just for us currently but 25 or 30 years down the road, if PRO was ever to dissolve, then the ownership would fall back to the city because of the investment we have.”
Moving forward with her proposal, “I looked over your plans for the lower buildings and I agree that we need to get some businesses in there, the problem that I have is with drop ceiling,” Jones said. “Drop ceiling is the worst thing that you can put in any building, any house, because it’s a heat loss.” She felt that the money requested for the drop ceiling exceeded the actual cost and that better options could be constructed at cheaper rates. “I think too that the place needs to be an open place that someone can go in and design their own,” Jones said. She stated the way it was proposed to us is that they were going to set up the coffee shop. “Whose got a coffee shop?” asked Judy. “It’s in the proposal for that money that they’re going in,” before Judy cut in saying, “Nobody’s leased it yet.” Jones said she understood that but according to the proposal presented to council, the intentions are to set the facility up to accommodate a coffee shop. Judy asked Kolsun if Cindy (Kolsun’s wife and PRO member) had someone interested in putting in a coffee shop, which he said there was a couple people interested. Kolsun stated, “They’re not going to set it up for a coffee shop unless somebody comes in and says they want it a coffee shop and this is how we want it, I mean that’s a given.” “But that’s what was in your proposal,” reiterated Jones. She recapped the proposal and the details included when asking Myers if she was correct in what the documents stated. He confirmed that was what was in the proposal.
It was then asked if PRO was a 501(c)3, a non-profit organization, which it was stated by Judy they were. It was then asked how a non-profit organization could rent or lease out these units for profit being classified as a non-profit organization. “Well what we heard was they can’t have $50,000 in a bank account,” said Judy. Discussion continued briefly before the Mayor stated, “Well we need to move on its going to be a long meeting anyway.”
Auvil returned to the topic of putting deed restrictions on the PRO buildings offering the city first refusal to purchase in the case it is decided to be sold. Councilwoman Amy Wagner had performed some research and discovered the city has already contributed $168,000 towards this building. “So my thing is that I think it should be deeded to us or payments need to get paid back to us,” she said. Judy stated they’re making payments for the loan debt they have by the means of the apartment rentals. “How much money has been spent on this building?” asked Wagner. Brief discussion commenced on loan amounts and contributions from the city to determine an approximate total of $343,000 in just the McDonald building according to Myers’ calculations. “Are there receipts out there for that?” asked Wagner. “Amy I’m not the secretary I don’t know,” responded Judy. “We ask them (the library) for a breakdown,” said Wagner still requesting to see more information on the spending of PRO. Before moving forward, Wagner expressed her sincere gratitude to the library and all they do for the community, especially during this pandemic. Filler wanted to assure that the library will remain open to assist the students with their distant learning requirements while school is suspended unless mandated by the Governor.
Wagner then took a moment to go through her proposal expressing excitement over the pond project. “I’m excited that people are showing interest in it, but I see there was a meeting and I talked to Jason I think around that time, and I didn’t know there was a meeting about it.” She requested council be made aware of upcoming meetings of the volunteers offering to assist with this project so the city can be involved and remain up to date on the progress. Auvil agreed and discussed potential future installation of an aerating fountain and fishing pier. Wagner expressed concern with not having enough involvement from the city with a volunteer group, though she’s happy people are willing to step up and help, there are procedures and guidelines that they may not be aware of that must be followed and the work needs bid out. Jones agreed, stating, “They have to understand there are state laws and regulations.” Wagner added, “We need to hire someone that has a degree in pond upkeep.” Auvil expressed a desire to get to that point but feels it may come at a later time. Wagner reiterated the need to ensure the volunteers stay in close contact with Myers and the city council to ensure all projects are done according to code and regulations.
After Greenlief redirected the meeting back on track, Mayor Judy asked each applicant what the bare minimum needed to operate was, beginning with the cemetery. Myers felt that $35,000 of the original requested $50,000 would be sufficient without making staff cuts. Of the initial request of $340,000, Judy asked Auvil what Parks and Rec could get by with. “The absolute bare bottom, I mean bare bare bottom, is $320 (thousand). That takes us to 15 months for wellness center and parks and gets us back on our fiscal year cycle and allows us to do the items I stipulated earlier with the maintenance and playground equipment,” replied Auvil. Judy asked Filler and Moore what they needed “to survive”. Moore informed council that there is currently a leak they are working on in the new section of the building which is being taken into consideration within their request. Filler crunched the numbers and responded with $90,000.
Moving into the BCP request, which was over $12,000. Each line item was discussed which honored the initial requests in full for the water line replacement, Itron Leak Detection System, Water Treatment Plant building repairs, Wastewater System improvements, and the lagoon treatment. The Omni Proportional Flow Valves, Auvil suggested reducing to $2,000 because there is already $7,000 in place for the $9,000 project, which all were in agreement.
Street paving, initially requested at $75,000, was discussed next, Auvil stating that most streets in town are in good shape and the desire is to pave alleys to ease in plowing during winter months. “May I make a suggestion?” asked Jones, “If you do that, you start getting them surveyed because when they paved at Amy’s (Wagner) house they came over on my property with the blacktop because they weren’t surveyed,” she said. Auvil responded saying it would add to their expenses and the city has a right of way from the center of the roads. “I’m talking about three foot into my yard,” explained Jones. After further discussion and changes, the total allotted for streets was set at $25,000 due to how much work they feel the crews can perform during optimal paving season.
Sidewalks initially requested $10,000 was reduced to $4,000 after prioritizing projects and the Spruce Street drain project remained at $15,000. The lean-to stayed at $20,000 and $12,000 for the backhoe payments, which Councilman Kenneth Morrison made everyone aware that this was a replacement piece of equipment and one will be sold. The $10,000 that was requested for the tire machine and tools was reduced to $5,000, the truck payments of $15,000 had to remain the same, as did the $3,000 for the cleanup. The $10,000 for the PVFD, and $85,000 for the city police also stayed as requested.
The Parsons Economic Development Authority initially requested $50,000 though the average amongst the council proposals was $20,000 therefore agreed upon. The Pulp Mill Bottom pond restoration request was decreased from $25,000 to $20,000 and Fairs and Festivals went from $15,000 to $12,000 with the demolition fund remaining at $75,000. The Parsons Utiilties Stabilization Fund of $25,000 went to $20,000 at the suggestion of Auvil and the Parsons Community Center Renovations request of $25,000 went to $20,000. The $80,000 ADA bathrooms at Mill Race Park and Basketball Court for $18,000 were removed and given a value of $0 with a desire to revisit at a later date. Jones suggested a donation bucket be set out at the Friday events in the park to help go towards projects such as the basketball court.
The PRO request of $51,000 followed with Auvil stating it needed to stay at $50,000, though Wagner added, “You’ve cut every line except for PRO.” Jones added they still have $19,000 in the bank they can use; therefore, she suggested taking the needed amount to balance the budget off of PRO. Kolsun insisted PRO needed the $50,000 from the city and more to meet their need of $78,000. Jones responded by eliminating the drop ceiling in their plan they can save $10,000. The Ford explorer payments and Ford F-250 payments stayed at their request of $4,500 and $12,000 bringing them to the rainy day fund. $19,750 was left which was what went into this fund at the end of the discussion and changes.
Greenlief made the motion to accept the distribution of the $1,006,250 as presented with a second made by Auvil. Mayor Judy proceeded with a role call but announced Kolsun would be abstaining from voting on the PRO line item because of his affiliation with the group. Blosser, Morrison, Auvil, and Kolsun all voted yes with the one line abstained from. Greenlief also voted yes but Wagner asked how Kolsun could abstain from voting on an item though he fully participated and argued for that proposal, feeling if he couldn’t vote he should not have a say. “We have free speech,” was what Judy responded with before Wagner stated yes along with Jones.
This concluded the 2020 Harman Fund distribution meeting before a short recess was taken prior to the regular session of the Parsons City Council.