The Charter requires the city council to approve an annual appropriation bill (our city’s budget) each year by Sept. 15. The City Manager can make some adjustments to the approved budget without consulting the council but there are other adjustments he cannot make without the consent of council. At the time the 2016 budget was approved by council Michael Penny and Debbie Brinkman had been meeting with the TrailMark HOA telling them a fire station was coming and the pair had been negotiating with Lockheed Martin to provide fire and emergency services to the aerospace company located outside the city limits. You have to wonder why both Penny and Brinkman, not once, brought up the funding of a new fire station during their extensive budget discussions prior to September 15th.
Early in December of 2015 several ordinances appeared on the council’s agenda for the funding of the new TrailMark Station 19. It became obvious just how much work had been done towards the building of Station 19. An agreement to provide fire and emergency services to Lockheed Martin had been negotiated and ready for approval, Golden Triangle Construction had responded to an RFP and staff was recommending that they be awarded the contract for the construction of Station 19, and several accounting maneuvers were presented for approval to loan money to accounts that were to be used to pay for the construction of Station 19 but did not have the funds to meet the construction costs.
At the December 1, 2015 council meeting Councilman Clark asked the Public Works Director, Mark Ralph, why he was spending any money on Station 19 prior to any council discussion or approval of a new fire station. Ralph said he was directed to proceed by the City Manager. We later learned that $85,000 was spent to get Station 19 off the ground – all before the council ever discussed the expenditure let alone whether or not they supported the additional fire station.
The Charter provides oversight of our budget to prevent this type of activity. Section 75 of our Charter states that the council, after a public hearing, may insert new items of expenditures. The addition of new budget expenditures is not within the city manager’s authority but yet he spent close to $85,000 without the full council’s knowledge or approval. It appears that Brinkman and Bruce Stahlman were the only two councilors aware of the city manager’s activities.
If the Charter had been followed Michael Penny would have first gone to the council to discuss whether or not the council wanted to enter into an agreement with Lockheed Martin and/or build a new fire station in TrailMark.