Local Paper Still Spinning the Truth – And You’re Paying for It

It has been a long year and media in general hasn’t made it any easier, but one media outlet in particular took things too far. In August I made the decision to take action.  I had an attorney send a demand letter for a retraction of a fabricated quote the editor at GCN (The Courier) attributed to me in one of his many biased articles. The retraction happened, but the damage to the City was done.  He knew the statement was malicious and Gulf Coast Media knew, or should have known, that this statement was totally false, yet they published it anyway.

After receiving the letter from my attorney, a citizen forwarded me a screenshot of what the the author of the article posted on his FB page:

 

Attempting to destroy the reputation of a city, stirring up unnecessary drama and spinning the truth is no joking matter.  And it is costing our City greatly.

A few days ago, another hit-piece article by the same person insinuated that the City may have violated state law with the use of our city barricades.  If he knew the whole process started with a city councilman reaching out to one of the city employees to help out a fraternity brother whose father worked for the Roy Moore campaign, maybe he wouldn’t have started the “investigative” story.  The “state law” violated was that council should not direct city employees.  That is the role of the mayor and I was never contacted.  In fact, I didn’t know about the details of what happened until the “reporter” started asking questions.  Bottom line, barricades were used to protect citizens and all City expenses were reimbursed when the invoice was paid.  The probe is simply embarrassing and a waste of time.

In addition, I received the following email yesterday questioning why I misled council and the public about the debris removal contract.  As with most of his negative reporting on my administration, he takes the questions he’s been fed from his secret sources, presumes the questions are fact-based, uses sensationalized headlines, confuses the public and ultimately further divides the office of the mayor and council.

His questions are typical of his reporting – he implies I’m guilty and asks how I wish to respond and invites council to point fingers – which they do.  When he finishes his articles, you will also notice there are never any “unavailable for comment” responses from detractors as his articles are intended to be a platform for, and pander to, council, disgruntled city employees and adversaries.  Therefore a response from me is not important for these articles. However, I will bring the facts to the citizens as always – the same facts that were shared with council in July so they could make an informed decision.

I decided not to answer the questions and instead waited until he posted the article to see what was written, again without facts, and see how the detractors responded.  I had this blog ready to post and everything came out exactly as I predicted.

Here is the article. (I will discuss why I didn’t sign the appointment for the City attorney later).

I requested the purchasing manager to rebid ALL contracts in January, which included debris removal – six months before it expired – in an effort to leave PLENTY of time to get RFP responses in and to review them.  Pittman Tractor received this request and declined to rebid.  The other answers are in red:

 

Here are the facts about the Debris Removal Contract I sent to council in July:

Click here to read the email I sent council.

Click here to read the attachment to the email from Volkert

As you can see, council was given all the facts.

I hope the editor will begin to recognize that leaked documents and misinformation  he’s being fed are coming from politicos and special interests that want to see me fail.  But because I have only one agenda – to make positive changes and enhancements in our great City in a meaningful way – it has been more difficult than they expected.

It has gotten a lot easier to ignore the lies and innuendo directed at me, however, when these articles start costing the City in unnecessary legal fees, disparaging City staff and subjecting the City to unwarranted liability – all at taxpayers expense mind you – I will come back with the same tenacity that got me elected and will continue to give you the facts.

The Courier is primarily funded by legal ads.  Since the Courier has relinquished its role as a legitimate primary publication of record for the City of Fairhope, I will be seeking an alternate source in which  to place our legal ads. You deserve better.

Sincerely,

Mayor Karin Wilson

 

2018 Proposed Budget Presented 9/25/17

For 2017’s budget the focus was cutting wasteful spending and separating the financials for the City and Utilities. The result has already demonstrated a path for a more financially responsible government.  We exceeded revenue goals and were under budget on expenses which not only saved millions of dollars over previous years, but greatly reduced the city’s reliance on our utility profits.

 

 

 

 

The Utility subsidy came in the form of transfers into the City’s operating account and also by directly paying City operating expenses as you can see in the graph above.  After separating out City & Utility financials, Utilities no longer pay for City expenses such as phone, computer, community development among may other expenses. Utilities will continue to make up the shortfall for the City but only in a transparent transfer and only for the amount needed until infrastructure is updated.In 2017, the Utility transfer exceeded the City’s need showing a surplus.  The actual subsidy should have been $1,787,671, which is substantially lower than previous years.Here is the net City deficit and when compare to the last two years, the City’s reliance on Utility assistance has greatly reduced and well on its way to being self-reliant.  In 2017 the City did not use any cash reserves as in years past either. While we transferred more than what was needed from Utilities, this is the first surplus in many years. Now that expenses are properly appropriated, we can manage utility subsidy and even plan for the correct amount the city should be getting to better serve its citizensBecause less is being transferred out, Utilities’ profits have increased.  With 2018 projected profits, we can start immediately on upgrading the urgent needs in the sewer department.Since 2010 the City of Fairhope has grown in population almost 27% while the total number of Full-time City employees has decreased almost 4%.  The shortage has been a long-term problem but has been particularly exasperating now due to rapid growth.  We must fill in the holes to bring better services, become more efficient, capitalize on revenue opportunities and greatly reduce overtime.

The budget also includes 2% fund for merit increases based on performance.  By eliminating the standard cost-of-living raise, we can afford to raise employees for exceptional performance. The increase will happen on the anniversary date rather than all at once after the budget passes.Total debt with 2020 projection.  The City debt will be paid down to just under $2MM, but Utility and Airport debt are long term.  Utilities have also held debt which should have been under the City such as the settlement/purchase of the “Triangle” property. We can no longer co-mingle expenses and revenue or we cannot properly manage the areas that need attention.One of the big reductions in 2017 was excessive engineering expenses.  We saved $341K+ by hiring the Operation Director who is a civil engineer.  The 2018 budget includes a new engineering dept which will be a shared expense in all departments which will include SCADA, mapping and GIS services.  This department is a critical need to solve sewer leaks and quality water concerns.

Fiscal 2017 began with 234 passenger vehicles.  We were paying more in mechanical expenses than the vehicles were worth and also paying unnecessary liability insurance. We are beginning 2018 with ~142 passenger vehicles.

When new vehicles were purchased, the old ones were handed down.  New purchases must replace old equipment unless we are adding a person.

2018 budget includes leasing larger equipment so we are not having to pay the whole purchase up front.  There will be no surprises on capital outlay each year, full warranty and maintenance included with lease and turned in for new equipment. This process will save money (mechanical, overtime, efficiency).

Top line budget numbers for City and Utilities.  Here is the link for full budget.  Proposed Revenue & Expenses are both conservative. Below is the video presentation.

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