Helper Council clears up payment controversy
The Helper City council met in their regular meeting last Thursday night and one of the items they decided upon was to pay a bill for a little over $600 that had been in dispute for the last year.
The money, which had been in question since the signing by of a contract by the previous administration , was in the budget, but a dispute over the contract the city had with Carbon County dispatch had kept the money from being paid.
"Up until 1999 the county paid all the costs for the dispatch center," Marjean Hansen, dispatch supervisor, told the council. "Since that time it has been up to the cities to pay their own part in the system. That is when this situation began."
According to the contract the city had signed with dispatch the last couple of years, the city was to pay a certain proportion of the cost operating the center based on the cities usage. One of the provisions in the contract said that the cost of the services could not go up more than 3percent year. However, with last years contract those costs did go up more than that and dispatch billed the city for more.
"We sent an invoice for $3816 and the city deducted the money from that payment equaling a 3% raise from the year 2000," explained Hansen. "They sent us a check for $3007.40 instead. That doesn't sound like a lot of money out of a budget of almost a half million dollars, but it does affect us."
Hansen explained that the contract truly did have a 3percent limit clause in it, but that it had been an oversight that was left in from the year before.
"I had no intentions of leaving that clause in the contract, but forgot to remove it before we sent it to the city," she said.
But she also explained that the actually cost for the service was attached to the contract so that the city did know what they would need to pay.
Mayor Joe Bonacci and city attorney Gene Strate, who had signed the contract along with the previous mayor, spoke about the issue at length.
"I might suggest that the cost for the service be noted directly in the contract," the mayor told Hansen. "That would make it easier."
The cost for the service was attached on an addendum to the back of the contract and Strate could not remember whether it was attached at the time of signing or not.
Some of the council members were not totally clear on exactly what dispatch did for the city for the money so Hansen explained all the duties they have in relation to Helper City.
"We provide more than just dispatch service for your police and fire departments," she explained. "That is what is in the contract, but we provide a number of services we don't charge you for. For instance we dispatch your water, road, electrical and animal control departments. We also answer the phones when there is no one available at the public safety building next door."
Police Chief George Zamantakis explained that when his officers or fire personnel are out the only way the phone gets answered is by the dispatch or by the answering machine in the building.
"The answering machine is not a very good way to answer a public safety departments phone calls," he said. " Officers don't get messages right away and sometimes people call that number instead of 911 in an emergency. Then we don't get to the call as fast as we should.'
Zamantakis gave the example of an elderly lady who called to say she had a fire in her kitchen on the line and left a message on the answering machine.
"At the time we were out on another emergency and didn't know because she left a message there," he said. "That is a bad situation without dispatch answering the phones."
The council discussed the problem and the mayor had Jona Skerl, city recorder check to see if the money had been budgeted in the amount Hansen requested. It turned out, upon checking that the whole amount had been set up and that $600 remained in the account. The council voted to pay the money dispatch requested.
"We would like to have some warning for next year as early as possible because we are going to begin the budgeting process soon," the mayor told Hansen. "Also be sure the figures are right in the contract we sign."
In other business the city council did the following.
They approved the installation of a plaque honoring Standardville along the Helper Parkway by the Clampers organization.
They approved a raise for the salary for the new court clerk in the Helper Justice Court. The new clerk will start out at $7 per hour and in 90 days after she is past probation will be raised to $7.95.
The council approved the expenditure of $2295 for computers for the library based on a grant the library personnel had applied for and received. But the expenditure was not approved without comment, because almost no one on the council even knew the library had applied for the money.
"I am very happy all these agencies are applying for extra money from places it is available," said Mayor Bonacci. "But I am concerned about the fact that often we here at city hall or the council know that they are doing so. I certainly don't want to discourage them, but our city agencies need to let us know what they are doing."
The council approved the expenditure of $7500 from a grant so that court arraignments could be done over video systems rather than having to transport the prisoners from the Carbon County jail to Helper and back again.
"The county is using this type of system and it is working very well," Chief Zamantakis explained to the council. "It not only keeps my officers from having to go back and forth to Price to bring people over here, it also is much more secure. Prisoners never leave the jail to be arraigned. It saves time, money and is much safer."
The council decided to look at revamping the sign ordinance in the historic district due to the fact it has not been enforced uniformly across the board.
"In fact," said the mayor," We haven't conformed to many of the rules and regulations pertaining to our historic district. We need to form a local historic preservation committee to oversee the area that is designated as such in our city."
After a long discussion the council decided to repeal some parts of Ordinance 96-9. That includes the provisions for open and closed signs as well as product brand signs.
"One of the problems we have with the ordinance is that it is based on the period that the state historic preservation people pegged the downtown area as being," the mayor told the council. "They looked at Main Street and decided it was a very early 1900's area while most of the buildings are really from the 1920-1940's. We just need to have a committee look at this whole thing."
Jim Robinson was asked to head a newly formed historic committee and to examine this and other issues of historic preservation facing the city.
The mayor appointed all the standing personnel who work for the city for the year and also passed out assignments for the council members, some of which had changed a little since the last mention of them in council meeting a couple of weeks ago.
Kim Spradling will be involved with the yearly Helper Art Festival, the Christmas Light Parade, the Board of Health and in dealings with the housing authority. That position becomes even more important now that the Carbon County housing authority has taken over the operation of the mission on Main Street.
Tony Gonzales will be over the street department, cemetery, parks and will be on Helpers planning and zoning board. He will also represent the city on the Price River Water Improvement District board.
Kirk Mascaro will be on the Main Street project board, will be in charge of east side properties, over all city buildings, the museum and the library.
Robert Welch will be associated with the cities water department and will be Helpers representative on the county planning and zoning commission. He will also be associated with the restaurant tax board.
Jim Robinson will be over the electrical department, historical preservation and the utilities board.