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Audit, Cell Tower Highlight Meet

POSTED May 22, 2012 10:58 p.m.

With several items listed on Monday’s Oakdale City Council agenda, two items – the city audit results and a proposed cell phone tower – sparked the most discussion between the public, city officials, and contracted commercial representatives.

With the 2011 audit finally submitted, Finance Director Albert Avila introduced Derrik Rampone from the city’s auditing firm, Moss, Levy, and Hartzheim to publically present the audit report.

Rampone quickly acknowledged the audit was later than expected and explained that communication back and forth to get required documents and needed information contributed to the delay. He suggested for following years the city learn from this experience and maintain a binder with likely required documents already in place.

Rampone reported that the city’s general fund was $300,000 positive of revenues over expenditures and the overall budget was over $500,000 positive. He did, however, point out that the Sewer Fund liability had grown to $12.5 million and loan payments would have to come from the general fund.

The audit results also showed the city’s reserves were $1.8 million which was within an acceptable range.

Interim City Manager Greg Wellman asked about significant findings and weaknesses that were found compared to previous years’ recommendations and if corrections had been made.

Rampone gave a general response stating that some had been corrected and some had not, citing city staffing is often a factor in getting previous recommendations implemented.

Wellman became more assertive in an answer and Rampone responded that more previous recommendations were not implemented than had been.

“So we still have over half unresolved?” Wellman asked.

Rampone agreed.

“There are still significant weaknesses that need to be addressed but no material weaknesses,” Rampone added.
There are ‘significant weaknesses’ but no ‘material weaknesses?’” replied Wellman. “That’s just legal jargon.”

Wellman said he does not consider the contracted audit complete until he receives a letter from the firm with its significant findings.

The proposal of the city to enter into a 25-year lease with AT&T for a 70-foot high cell phone tower located at Yosemite Avenue and East A Street brought public opposition by several speakers.

City Attorney Tom Hallinan introduced the matter and cited a federal code that stated the city would have to have a significant reason for rejecting the lease that would bring in $2000 a month to city coffers.

“Do we really need the money that badly?” asked Allison Clark, who listed concerns for public health because of the radio waves and no long-term findings available.

Don Light also announced his disagreement for the tower adding, “The writing is on the wall and you’re going to do it anyway.”

John Lane expressed concern that after the lease, the city was left with the tower for dismantling.

AT&T Cingular Wireless Representative Christine Roberts said that the tower would also be available to be leased out by the city for other wireless providers and could bring in over the initial $2000 per month. She also said that the contract could be revised for compliance testing at the expense of AT&T.

“The city is getting more revenue and the citizens are getting more zapped,” countered Clark.

Councilman Mike Brennan motioned that the city accept the lease with the contract rewritten for yearly testing at AT&T’s expense.

After discussion regarding the choice of the location and possible alternative sites, the motion passed 3-1 with Councilwoman Katherine Morgan the lone dissenting vote.

In other matters the council discussed how to fill the vacant city treasurer position and the possibility of reinstituting city street sweeping.

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