WARRENTON — It’s that time of year again.

The city of Warrenton received its independent audit report from Isler IPA Tuesday night, and this year, Paul Nielson explained to the city commission, there was nothing of the negative nature to report.

“I’ve been doing this since 1983, auditing municipalities, so I’ve been doing this for a while,” Nielson said. “And I?kind of have a standard I set in my own professional judgment – how many days you should have in operating funds on hand at the end of the year. And that’s anywhere from three to six months.”

Nielson said the city of Warrenton in 2012 had enough savings to run for an additional 149 days without any revenue coming in. “You’re right where, in my opinion, you need to be,” he said.

But similar to the report given last year, the sewer fund is still lagging. The revenue brought in by sewer charges is less than what it costs to run it.

Last year’s revenues totalled $1.7 million. The expenditures totalled more than $2 million.

“We talk to you each year about having to increase our rates to build up that balance and actually shift it around,” City Manager Kurt Fritsch said to the commission.

Last year, the commission approved an incremental sewer rate increase, of only 5 percent instead of the 10 percent increase recommended by former City Manager Bob Maxfield.

“I know we kinda drug our feet about raising it because we thought there was going to be help from the state,” Mayor Dick Hellberg said. “That was kind of our rationale and we’re going to have to face reality sooner or later.”

But Commissioner Mark Kujala retorted, “I don’t think we drug our feet. We actually did implement a rate increase, smaller increases that would grow each year. We’re trying to reach a sustainable level, but at the same time we’re not trying to do something radical in one year.”

The discussion was part of the audit report. The commission took no action.

In other city news;

• Commissioners Henry Balensifer and Mark Kujala were sworn in. This is Kujala’s third term and Balensifer’s first. New Commissioner Tom Dyer was not present because of health issues. Balensifer reported Dyer was in the hospital for blood-related problems. Balensifer and other members of the commission extended well-wishes.

• Because of Dyer’s absence, the commission decided to wait until the next commission meeting, Jan. 22, to elect a mayor amongst themselves. Dick Hellberg has served as the 2012 mayor and will continue in that capacity at least until the next meeting. This will likely be the last time the commission appoints one of their own members to that role. In November, voters elected to have a public vote for mayor in 2014.

• Clatsop County Deputy Sheriff Chance Moore was appointed to the Warrenton Planning Commission to take Balensifer’s seat, but not before a lengthy debate, with Commissioner Mark Baldwin supporting another candidate, Deon Harris. Balensifer said appointing Moore would encourage young working families get involved in civics, while Baldwin said Harris came with exceptional planning commission experience. Jay Flint also applied for the position, but because he was recently appointed to the budget committee, the vote came between Harris and Moore. Moore was appointed 3-1, with Balensifer, Kujala and Hellberg’s vote. Baldwin voted against the appointment.

• The city of Warrenton has a sick leave donation policy for its employees who are gone longer than their vacation and sick days allow. A current employee who fell ill and expended both funds recently received 156 hours of donated sick leave from fellow employees, including former Fire Chief Ted Ames, who recently started as Astoria’s fire chief. Kujala called the gesture remarkable and Fritsch said it was a very kind offer, particularly by Ames. However, in order to give the sick pay to the employee, the commission had to approve it. It passed unanimously.


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