Monday, August 24, 2015

Joplin City Manager: City working on addressing auditor's report

(City Manager Sam Anselm provided the following update to the Joplin City Council Friday.)

Good afternoon, everyone. Please see below for this week’s update.

Key Meetings

-Exclusive of the council meeting and the state auditor’s presentation earlier this week, on Tuesday I addressed the Kiwanis Club at Twin Hills, to provide attendees with an update on what’s been going on around the city lately, including construction projects, the CDBG-DR process, our Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) update, and the audit. (I would have had much more to talk about had the meeting been scheduled for the following week.)

-On Tuesday afternoon Director Haase, Director Allgood and I met with a representative from the General Employee Committee to discuss their request for an additional paid holiday. That item will be on your agenda for the Issues & Options portion of our budget work sessions next month.

-Finally on Tuesday, and prior to the audit presentation, I attended the open house at City Hall to gather input for the LRTP update. According to the consultant overseeing the update, survey responses have been higher than they anticipated. I cannot say how many were in attendance at the open house, however.

-Sandwiched between post-audit media interviews on Wednesday, the mayor and I met with Able Body Mfg. to discuss the road widening project in front of their location, and to get an update on their operations. On a positive note, they’re seeing some growth in the composite portion of their business and are discussing future plans, so the representative wanted to keep us in the loop.

-Yesterday, Mayor Seibert, Councilwoman Colbert-Kean, and I had a roundtable discussion with the chamber, the NLC, local business representatives, and staff from Senator Bond and Representative Long’s offices to discuss legislation supported by the NLC on the topic of e-commerce, internet taxes and their impacts on local businesses and cities.

-Finally, yesterday afternoon I attended the first hour of the Sales Tax Oversight Committee’s meeting, to provide the committee members with an update on projects that fall under our various sales taxes (Capital Improvements, Parks & Stormwater, Public Safety).


Some updates from PW. In addition, a full list of updates is attached to this week’s report:

-Last week we met with property owners for a very early discussion of the conceptual approach to the Jackson Street Bridge replacement. As a group we agreed to remove the old bridge and build a new bridge generally in the same location at the highest elevation that we could afford. The new bridge would handle two lanes of traffic as well as sidewalks and bike lanes on each side. If there is any money left over, they would like us to extend the sidewalks as far as we can to accommodate a large number of people who walk along the road to Shoal Creek. They really appreciated being in on the ground floor in helping develop the solution and the discussion helped us streamline the scope of the engineering contract.

-Staff has met with the Joplin Special Road District, Jasper County Commission representatives and Newton County Commission Representatives as part of our effort to bring all of these entities on board to the upcoming CIST projects.

-The 20th Street Grade separation project is moving forward – it appears they may be a couple of weeks behind schedule right now. New Hampshire is opened back up and work on the foundations for the support walls along 20th has begun.

-Main Street – we are not done with our surface treatment work – we pulled off to do work ahead of the overlay contractor on those streets that needed some subgrade work before they get overlaid. As soon as we get that completed we’ll move back to Main and finish our work.

-As for our approach to addressing the auditor’s findings and recommendations, last evening I sent the following message to department heads:

Good evening, everyone. Starting next week and for as long as it takes, we're going to forego our normal staff meeting format and focus on the audit report. (We'll still continue to go over agenda items the week before council meetings, and we'll take a break on September 1st to listen to the CPBB guys.) 

I've mentioned to several media outlets this week that it has been impossible to discuss the findings, our responses, and how to move forward with making changes without being able to involve the staff who will be most impacted by those changes. 

And looking back on things, immediately after the tornado I think our response was so successful because everyone was around the table discussing challenges and coming up with solutions together. Over time things started returning to normal, we began focusing on our own departments, and decisions started being made without input from everyone. So let's get back to doing what made us so successful in the beginning. 

If you haven't read the audit report yet, we'll start at the beginning, and we'll go through as much as we can in an hours' time, and break until the following week. If you have any relevant information that either the auditors didn't include in their findings, or wasn't included in our responses, we'll be including that on a webpage I’ve created to give the public continuous updates on our progress of implementing the changes. I'll also be including a summary of our conversations in my weekly report to council. I'm looking forward to next week's meeting, because it presents us with an opportunity take a close look at how we do things, and how we can do them better, to serve our community. Please come prepared, and don't forget to bring your wrenches, so we can start unkinking some pipes. (A subtle reference to the Extreme Government Makeover book that many of you should have; if you don't have it, let me know and I'll buy you a(nother) copy.) Thank you for your time.

-With respect to that webpage, it is a work in progress, but it is “live” on our website and can be found at

-In staffing news, the assistant parks director position has been filled by promotion Paul Bloomberg to that position, and Jessica Johnson has been promoted from recreation leader to recreation coordinator. Please join me in congratulating them. As indicated in a previous report, next week I will be meeting with staff from parks and HR to discuss other position reclassifications that will result in a more streamlined structure within the parks department that will place a greater emphasis on the “R” side of Parks & Rec.

In the Pipeline

-The agenda for Monday night’s special meeting has been posted. We will have the public hearing for the property tax rate as well as the ordinance for your approval, and we will also be discussing the draft contract with the Chamber of Commerce.

-On September 1st, department heads will be hearing a presentation from Jon Johnson and Chris Fabian with the Center for Priority-Based Budgeting, to learn more about the PBB process and give staff an opportunity to ask questions. (The agreement with the CPBB will be presented to you on September 21st after a presentation from Jon and Chris.)

-Budget work sessions will take place September 14th and 15th , and on the 16th , if necessary. At the mayor’s request, I have asked our public information officer, Lynn Onstot, to contact MSSU to see if they can either broadcast or record those meetings in the council chambers to allow the public an opportunity to view those meetings if they cannot attend in person.


Anonymous said...

So ... Sam: How are you going to address the City health plan underfunding shortfall of over $2 million?
When are you going to bring fiscal discipline to the City?
How long until the spending spree requires a tax increase?
How many City employees are happy with the "no raise this year"?

Anonymous said...

General Employee Committee..this group is part of the dog and pony show. Trying to negotiate...but yet not really negotiating...not a union..just a group of hand picked employees..what a farce...

Sam A. said...

The health plan isn't underfunded. As the audit report states, our reserve balance (i.e. savings account) is at $1.9 million, with our stated goal of $2.1 million. So we're short of our goal, but revenues are meeting expenditures in the fund.

The proposed budget for next year ( is balanced, but at the expense of raises and cutting capital out of several funds. I would point you to my budget message for more information.

I'm not sure what spending spree you're referring to, but generally speaking, if we live within our means, we wouldn't require a tax increase. Depending on the level of service our residents want, if our current revenues can't meet those expectations we may look at prioritizing the services we provide, but voters ultimately have the final say as to whether a tax increase would be supported. Again, it gets back to the level of service our residents want, and if we cannot meet those levels with current revenues, then a tax increase may have to be considered by the public.

I haven't spoken with every employee, but I would say not many.

If you have any other questions, please let me know. Call me, email me, swing by City Hall for a visit, or send me a question on Twitter.

Anonymous said...