An audit report delivered during the July 10 meeting of the Winnfield City Council was long-awaited good news for the city in that it opens the door for grant applications, an option that was not available when the city had been in non-compliance.
Auditor Steve McKay of the Alexandria firm McKay, Rozier & Willis CPA, gave a short and upbeat report of audits that covered two years of city activity and took about four months to complete. He noted that this is a qualified opinion due to some deficiencies but added that an audit will always find something within a system that can be corrected. However, none of those issues point to non-compliance.
“The good news is that the city is on time with this report for the first time in a long time,” opened McKay. The qualified opinion is in part tied to the point that the city has debts yet the report points out that “the City has sufficient assets to meet its ongoing obligations to creditors and other interested parties for the foreseeable future.”
The city was still in the process of recovering from several devastating storms “and yet you still have $3.5 million in the bank. That’s a good sign. Winnfield is on track to be able to seek some grant funding,” McKay informed the council members.
In other action, the council voted to seek Community Block Grant funding that they have been told is available to help with the removal of dilapidated buildings described as hazards and eyesores. In the application, the city will compile a list of the properties and the steps involved in this effort to “clean up the city.” Officials have heard that LCDBG funding is now available.
On a matter that was presented during the June meeting of the council, the council’s July vote authorized Mayor Gerald Hamms to meet with JLC Power, LLC, to formalize a contract to perform an “attachment audit” of the estimated 10,000 power poles within the city. The mayor met with company representatives since the June meeting.
The JLC presentation represented that perhaps 75% of the poles have “attachments,” lines like telephone and cable, which are not the city’s and could be attached in a manner counter to federal guidelines. The fees the attachees are currently paying the city are also likely far below industry standards, JLC suggested. As a result of the audit, the city and the attachees alike will be access to an online mapping system of the poles while the city should receive more income annually from those companies using city poles.
Out-of-pocket costs to the city are expected to be in the $13,000 to $15,000 range with the bulk of additional costs to be borne by the attachee companies, said JLC which also said they will handle all dealings with the third parties. It was estimated that the audit would take at least until year’s end to complete.
The council also set its tax millage for the new year at 7.410 mills, unchanged from the present rate.