The mayoral candidate forum held before the primary election prompted several questions by the El Dorado City Commission. Clarifications on misstatements or incorrect information voiced by candidates during the forum was corrected during the Commission meeting Monday evening.
Herb Llewellyn, city manager, provided the commissioners with the correct information.
“After watching the debate and visiting with several of you and staff on Thursday, we were asked what we heard we didn’t think was accurate,” Llewellyn said.
The following are the list of incorrect statements and Llewellyn’s responses:
• The city paid an extra $50 million for the pool at Prairie Trails. Llewellyn said this was not accurate, it was part of the purchase price.
• The city spent $165,000 for the new spray park. Llewellyn said the spray park at Graham Park cost $120,000 and the North Main one was $152,000, which included a filtering system.
• The city is paying $4 million to install the water line to the middle school. Llewellyn said the cost was $433,000 and it included a line down Country Club to 30th, east down 30th and south down Main Street so it was a loop, as well as another little loop to the water tower for the fire hydrant. He said this also would be able to be used for future land development in the area.
• Questions on the amount of tourism funding from the city. Llewellyn said they always budget to spend all of the funds, but they don’t always spend it all.
• The lake debt amount was higher than what was thought and was not being paid yet. Llewellyn said for the last five years they have paid the Corp $4,338,631 for the lake debt.
• Asserted the sales tax is being used to fund the general fund. Llewellyn said, “I guess I’d say that is true because you do several million dollars of property tax reduction. If you take money out of property tax and put in sales tax dollars in there, yes we do, and it’s a big number, $1.6 million in the general fund instead of property tax.” He said the sales tax has balanced to the penny since he first came to El Dorado.
• The budget has increased 38 percent. Llewellyn said he was not sure exactly what this was talking about unless it was because sometimes they budget to do things they will only do depending on if they get a grant, such as the budget line item for new police officers every year, but it is only if there is a grant received. “We put things in the budget that are being considered but they are always tied to a revenue stream and if the revenue stream doesn’t materialize we’re not going to do it,” he said.
• Questions on the age of city vehicles. Llewellyn said the average age on their vehicles is 1986. “While we absolutely have some pickups that are 2012, ’11, ’08 and ’07, the bulk of our fleet is older than that,” he said. “Police cars specifically, the patrol fleet, is almost five years old on average and the average mileage is 65,480. I will tell you I’m very cognizant of how our vehicles look. I want them not wrecked and if they’re dented, I want the dents fixed. I want them to look and tell the public we value their taxes and their resources and we’re going to take care of them. While some don’t look like what I want them to look like, the vast majority look pretty dang good.”
• The Comprehensive Plan shows the city going south. Scott Rickard, assistant city manager, said the cost was $139,000. It was finalized in 2009 and includes subdivision regulations and zoning regulations, as well as talks about the direction the city should take and planning initiatives. He said they were awarded a state award for quality of comprehensive plan. “We use it regularly and it’s a great tool to have,” he said.
• The city should use local contractors. Llewellyn said they use local contractors whenever possible. “You’ve talked to staff about it many times to buy and shop local,” he said.
• The number of golfers at Prairie Trails was only 30 people a weekend. Llewellyn said in 2012, there were 15,040 rounds of golf played.
• There were questions about the airport, when the city bought it and the number of planes there. Llewellyn said the assertion was they just bought it a year or two ago, but it was purchased in the 1950s. There are 39 planes housed at the airport and there were 19,000 landings there last year.
• Another topic was about supporting charitable things and the city should do more of that. “I think we have a long list of those things,” Llewellyn said. “Just last month is when we heard the request from the SafeHouse, Elks and all of those organizations. Since I’ve been here, you have established an extra revenue stream just to do more.”
• Concern the $600,00 a year for road maintenance out of sales tax wasn’t enough. Rickard said the limiting factor for the amount of work they can do is the dollar amount. “As much work as me and my two other staff have for those types of projects, we definitely feel we could handle more,” Rickard said. Llewellyn pointed out the streets not in good shape are because they have not been brought up to city standards.
• Pioneer Road was not needed and that money should have been spent on Towanda Street. Rickard said there was a road built on the west side of Pioneer Balloon with a culdesac. It was part of a grant that supported Barton Solvents, BG Products, Pioneer Balloon and the city. “Those costs are to be split in fourths,” he said. “The road does open up an additional 25 acres of very marketable land in our industrial park, which we are very short of.” Llewellyn added that Pioneer Balloon has talked to them on several occasions about expanding their business and consolidating here and they needed another road for that. The city’s investment was about $200,000, while the estimate for Towanda is $1.25 million.
• Question on budgeting. Llewellyn said they came up with a policy where they always budget to 15 percent. “All of our funds have a minimum of 15 percent annual budget end reserves,” he said.
• They also talked about the lake debt. Commissioner Shane Krause pointed out they get audited every year by a professional company and have won awards for their budget. Llewellyn said they do a lot more than is required by law. “Auditors bring in an outside perspective to the way you do business,” he said. “They are just another set of eyes trying to help you do a good job. They give you ideas on how to do a better job and that is what we all strive for.”
He said the auditors have always wondered why the lake wasn’t on their books, so now they have it on there. He said it was an asset and a liability. “We have auditors looking at our lake debt,” Llewellyn said.
He also addressed the question if the Corp could repossess the lake. Llewellyn said they called the Tulsa Corp office and they did not know anything about that happening there, although they haven’t ruled out the possibility it could happen if they didn’t pay their debt. But they said that would never be an issue.