Gladstone commission gets down to business

GLADSTONE — All of the newly-elected Gladstone City Commissioners have experience serving on the commission prior to Monday night’s reorganizational meeting, and that experience showed when the board got down to business.

Prior to the reorganizational meeting and their official swearing-in, commissioner Dave Nemacheck and Darin Hunter sat with commissioners Brad Mantela and Joe Thompson for a report on the city’s audit. During the special workshop session, the audit performed by Anderson, Tackman & Company, PLC, was discussed and the commissioners were informed the audit was clean. It was also noted there was no evidence the books were “cooked” as has been claimed by former commissioner Mike O’Connor, who is currently suing the city over what he alleges are misuses of funds.

At the reorganizational meeting that followed, all of the elected and re-elected commissioners were sworn-in.

Commissioner Dave Phalen was absent from the meetings Monday, but the remaining commissioners followed the recommendation of the city’s residents and selected Thompson to serve as the city’s mayor. During the Nov. 7 election, Thompson was selected by voters to serve in the position, but as the mayoral vote is strictly advisory, the decision was ultimately up to the new commission.

The commissioners also selected Brad Mantela to serve as the mayor pro tem, leaving him in charge of running any meetings Thompson is unable to attend.

Immediately following the re-organizational meeting, the commissioners began addressing city business. One of their first actions as a commission was to appoint former mayor Jay Bostwick to the city’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA).

Bostwick did not seek re-election this November, but was the mayor at the time the newly-elected commission was selected by voters. As the mayor, he was also an adjunct member of the DDA, and following his departure from the commission he decided to seek appointment to stay on the board.

“I’d just like to say I’m glad he’s going to be back on there,” said Mantela.

The commission also introduced an ordinance that will dictate how the city spends money on capital improvement projects. The “Community Investment Plan Ordinance” establishes procedures for determining which projects receive funding and how that funding is applied.

“This is just a good thing to have in general. When people say, ‘well, why are you doing that?’ we have a plan in place to say, ‘here’s why we’re doing it and here’s where those monies are going,'” said Mantela.

Under the ordinance, the city’s department heads and the city manager will inventory existing equipment, review ongoing projects, and develop a list of requests. Those requests would then be reviewed by the city commission and, if approved following a public hearing, the projects would be included in the next budget cycle.

“You’re telling people you’ve got a plan for what money that they intrust the city to utilize to operate the city of Gladstone,” said City Manager Darcy Long.

While there are organizational benefits to the city of having an ordinance in place to address spending, the ordinance also serves as an opportunity for the city to increase its bond rating. Adopting the ordinance was one of the suggestions given by Robert W. Baird & Co., a wealth management and bond servicing firm the city is working with on the 9th Street Bonding Project.

Warren Creamer, a financial advisor for Baird, stated at a meeting in October he believes the city would, in its current state, be given an A plus rating by Standard and Poor. With the ordinance in place and by codifying a few other policies, it may be possible to increase that rating to a AA minus.

The commission also approved the purchase of granular activated carbon for the city’s water plant. While the carbon at the water plant has not met its predicted life expectancy, heavy rains early in the year led to higher levels of trihalomethane — an unsafe contaminant. It is believed replacing a portion of carbon will rectify the solution, and the city will ultimately save money by having the removed carbon recycled.

“I just know, if Eric (Buckman, water/wastewater superintendent) says he needs it, we probably need it,” said Hunter.

A few of the water department’s projects will be postponed to fund the carbon purchase, which will cost the city $85,800.