Letter to the Editor: Dec. 4, 2015

 

Financial mess at City Hall?

A recent letter to the editor suggests that the decision to terminate the city manager contract will result in “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in expenses and the loss of Supervisor Don Knabe’s support (Nov. 29 issue titled “Bite the Hand”).

Financial mess at City Hall?

A recent letter to the editor suggests that the decision to terminate the city manager contract will result in “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in expenses and the loss of Supervisor Don Knabe’s support (Nov. 29 issue titled “Bite the Hand”).

Supervisor Knabe has been a friend to Catalina Island since his election in 1996 – a relationship which has continued for nearly 20 years through the tenure of numerous city managers and city councils. Sup. Knabe helped with the city’s redevelopment reimbursement agreement, LA County paramedic negotiations, expansion of our incorporated area, the County Paramedic and Fire Station, money to restore Joe Machado and other areas impacted by the 2007 Fire and countless other matters.  That relationship will not change because of a change in city personnel.

As to the financial impact of the decision, here is a different take on the state of city administration:

Payroll is at the same level (approx. $200K per payroll period) as it was in 2010 but for the last five years we have also been shelling out close to $30K per month to part-time consultants to fill positions that were previously included in payroll. Add in the additional expenses incurred in the relentless effort to get rid of the planning director.  Cost over five years: more than $1.8M.

Grant funds are at risk because projects that were in planning stage in 2008 still have not been commenced.

The city is embroiled in more litigation cases and is spending more in legal fees and settlements in the last five years than it did in the prior 20 years combined.  Non-litigation legal expenses have exploded from approximately $150K/yr. to $500K+ per year: a six-year difference of more than $2.1 million.  A council member asked the city manager for historical and comparative financial data on legal costs at the time the FY 15-16 budget was adopted but it does not appear it was ever provided.  Although the city manager assured the City Council that legal fees were being controlled, the first two monthly invoices submitted this fiscal year averaged $48K.

No funding plan (other than grants) has been proposed nor have any implementation steps been presented by city management to the City Council in order to implement any of the various means available to have new developments pay their share for infrastructure. The only increase in city funds (other than those due to increased tourism helped by an improved economy and on-going good weather) has been increases in the fees we all pay for trash, sewer, saltwater and various services and permits.

Avalon, like other municipalities, is facing significant financial challenges, particularly with the State legislature’s termination of redevelopment agencies.  The city will receive a fraction of the tax increment money which it previously used to fund capital improvements such as sewers, streets, affordable housing and parks.  It looks like a majority of the City Council understands we cannot afford to continue down the same path we have been on for the last five years.

P.S. I permanently gave up my State Bar membership four years ago.  My comments regarding legal costs are made as a concerned resident only.

Pam Albers
Owner/Operator
Cafe Metropole
20-year resident
and business owner

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