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Arkadelphia, Ark. –

The Arkadelphia City Board of Directors met with a bare quorum Thursday in Town Hall to discuss “findings” from a recently performed 2007 audit; to consider a resolution for the 2010 budget; and to consider annexing a parcel of land to the city limits.

Directors Don Hager, DeDe Baldwin and Anthony Owen were absent.

Auditors found “compliance issues” with how city officials used accounting practices as spelled out by U.S. Government Auditing Standards, though the city did conform to the Arkansas Code.

City Manager Jimmy Bolt told directors that the city “overall performed very well” with its principles.
The first finding was the “segregation of duties” among city administrators in accounting. Bolt said the city is not able to hire enough employees for certified standards, but responded in a memo to auditors that “offices will segregate the duties … to the extent possible with the current staffing levels.”

The second finding was that Bolt in 2007 did not request the board pass an ordinance to finance a land purchase near the airport — but the city has since passed ordinances before making such purchases, he said.

Other findings were found within the treasurer’s office. First was the city’s “inability to get the banks to meet state codes” and provide proper check imaging. Banks have not supplied the city, on a routine basis, with the back sides of returned checks. The second issue was reconciling the city’s accounts. “The statements are balanced, but we have funds inside of multiple accounts that are unaccounted for,” Bolt wrote in a memo to the board. However, he said, “since that time we have had cooperation with the banks” in getting both sides of checks.

Bolt’s recommendation to the board was to have officials segregate the accounting duties; correct the financing procedures (“We have done that since,” he said); make sure banks provide the reverse side of checks (“If not, we’ll change banks,” he said), and hire a firm to work with treasurer Glen Beedle to get a “clear path” on the accounts.

Director-at-Large James Calhoun and Vice Mayor Ann Sanders discussed how much money the city has in bank accounts that are uninsured by FDIC, as the audit report found there were some accounts with more money than FDIC could guarantee. Sanders asked how much money is uninsured. Bolt had no exact figure, but said it was a “substantial amount” and that the issue has since been taken care of.

Director Brenda Hagerich asked if it is the treasurer’s responsibility to monitor if there is too much money in bank accounts. Bolt said the responsibility was his and Beedle’s, and added that the banks are “supposed to provide us with” that information. Sanders called it a “dual responsibility … A lot of it is our fault, and a lot of it is their fault.” When a director asked Bolt how a 2008 audit might compare, he said he expected 2008 to be a “mirror image” of 2007, but that he expected improvement.

Sanders asked if Beedle’s accounting training had been completed. “If not, it needs to be.” Bolt said Legislative Audit procedures are “complicated” and that their guidelines can change from year to year. “There is no way for him to know of all the changes they make every year.”

Calhoun added that the situation is “not peculiar to Arkadelphia” since other cities have had the same problem. He moved to accept Bolt’s recommendations, but Hagerich first wanted to hear from Beedle, who was present at the meeting.

Hagerich questioned Beedle about the funds that were not reconciled and the check imaging. Beedle said banks will send both the front and back of checks on some months, but other months they will provide only the front of the check. Regarding the funds that were not reconciled, he said the city has about $50,000 that has accumulated over a 20-year period from fire protection plan deposits. “We’re not in the negative,” he said, noting that the outstanding checks simply were never cashed by the people they were written out to. Some seasonal or temporary employees, he said, moved away after their work for the city and apparently lost their paycheck without bothering to call and get another one. “It’s been going on for several years.” He said auditors have only just begun to make an issue out of such funds. “We just have to cope and adjust to new rules.”

Hagerich said she wanted the public to know that there were no “serious discrepancies” found in the audit. She then seconded Calhoun’s motion, which passed unanimously.

Next on the agenda was the consideration of passing the 2010 budget resolution. The budget is typically passed as an ordinance, which requires three readings and being published in the newspaper. Calhoun asked Bolt if he was sure that auditors will “not come back (later) and say we should have (passed) it as an ordinance.” Bolt said he called the Legislative Audit and had it confirmed that a resolution would be OK. He also cleared it with Ed McCorkle, the city attorney. “I feel comfortable” with the budget being passed as a resolution.

Calhoun asked, “Would we have been safer in the long run to do it by ordinance?” Bolt said no.
Calhoun moved to adopt the resolution, followed by Sanders’s second.

The motion carried.

Next, Anita Wiley, building department supervisor, spoke to the board about a land annexation north of Country Club Road and south of the Youth Sports Complex. She said the city filed a petition for the annexation, followed by the legalities of annexing the land. She told the board she would like the ordinance to be passed with an emergency clause so the city could provide emergency services at the property, where a family has built a home, and so the household could be included in the 2010 Census.

Mayor Chuck Hollingshead noted that the ordinance could not be passed since there were not enough directors present.

Bolt thanked the families for working with the city in annexing the land.

Hagerich asked Wiley the benefits of annexing the property. Wiley said the annexation would connect the Youth Sports Complex with the city limits, providing law enforcement and fire protection there.

Calhoun asked what the city will do in the meantime to provide the family with fire protection and other services. “We’ll see to it,” Bolt said. Calhoun placed the ordinance on its first reading and, after it passed, moved to place it on its second reading, title only, for the next regularly scheduled meeting.

In the city manager’s report, Bolt said encouraged people to take advantage of Christmas at the Recreation Center Friday from 4:30-10 p.m. “After parents have gone shopping, I would like to encourage them to bring presents back to the center because the Arkadelphia Relay for Life Team will wrap gifts for a small fee as one of their fund-raisers.”

He said he attended a Clark County Strategic Plan Steering Committee meeting on Thursday. “The subcommittees are continuing to work on projects to assist our community.”

He thanked David Thigpen for “heading up an effort to continue the development of girl’s softball” with fields and organization of the program.

The city is still working to improve the Amtrak waiting room. “We are working with their representatives to improve the waiting area and to find caretakers.”

The annual city employee Christmas luncheon will be Tuesday at noon at the Recreation Center.

In routine business, Hagerich noted that Henderson State will host two 2009 commencement ceremonies on Dec. 18. She encouraged people to visit the Clark County Historical Museum, where Christmas ornaments are for sale for $15. Three ornaments — featuring the Clark County Courthouse, the county library and the train station.

Calhoun thanked Kenny Myers, street department supervisor, for entering the city’s new street sweeper in Thursday’s Christmas parade.

Sanders questioned the county’s 1/2-cent sales tax, which was passed in 2007 and is intended to boost economic development in the county. She asked if the Economic Development Corp. of Clark County has “anything to show” for the tax. “I don’t see anything being done with it. That’s tax money. What’s in the near future with the money?” Hollingshead said Drumco located in the county industrial park three weeks ago, and that work has begun on an Army Reserve center in the park. Calhoun added that the EDCCC has funded a small manufacturing company in Amity, and has also assisted Print Mania in its move across the street from its current location.

Sanders said she would like to hear a report from the entity responsible for managing the tax money.

Hollingshead said the parade was “fantastic … It’s good to see citizens lined up on the streets to recognize our young people.”