No Action Taken by Council on Huachuca Mountain Springs Temporary Work Force

Samantha Nicholasē Fri, Apr 20, 2012
Thursday nights Special Council Meeting started with item

A. DISCUSSION AND/OR ACTION: Direction to the City Clerk/Manager to terminate the employment of the temporary forces assigned to water system repair in Miller, Carr and Marshal Canyons.

Councilman Korbeck-Reeder made a motion to discussion only with Councilman Dougherty making the second.

Councilman Troncale said that I contacted three of the law firms that are representing the City of Tombstone in the lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service and the Arizona Department of Emergency Management and asked for their opinions on this. All three law firms responded that this is a really bad idea, as well as the Arizona Department of Emergency Management. I will read you one paragraph which is basically the just of what everyone told me from the legal aspects of it.

This paragraph is from the Goldwater Institute which is representing the City of Tombstone: Dear Sir, you have asked me to express my opinion on whether terminating the current Huachuca Mountain work crews would have an impact on the City of Tombstoneís lawsuit. My opinion is that any substantial change in the cities current policies relating to repair of its Huachuca Mountain water infrastructure could have an adverse effect on pending legislation. This includes any change in policy relating to the current Huachuca Mountain work crew, members of the current work crew are witnesses to any events that form the basis of the cityís claim against the U.S. Forest Service, my concern is that these individuals may be difficult to locate and that we might have a greater difficulty in securing their cooperation in supporting the cityís litigation efforts if they were terminated. I am also concerned that someone might get the false impression from the termination of the work crew that the city no longer precedes the need to restore its Huachuca Mountain infrastructure as an emergency. That is the just of the feedback I got from the law firms and Dennis Erickson from the Arizona Department of Emergency Management. I would strongly recommend that this item be defeated.

 Councilman Davis stated that I have received no less than 37 phone calls demanding two things from Ward 4. One would be not to let the city sell the water and second was not to terminate any employees working on the water system. This is perceived as the first step to losing the water in the mountains.

Councilman Dougherty said that a note received from Dennis Erickson received by the city on April 10th, 2012, he states that we are confident that we can help the City of Tombstone incorporate claim cost, to this date this calculates to $93,256.15 in comparison the total labor cost of the entire crew is far below the $60,000 to date. This cost includes the Project Manager, Equipment Operator, Safety Coordinator/Laborer and four additional laborers. Only two of which are still working to complete temporary repairs per ADEM guidelines at this time.

Councilman Korbeck-Reeder asked if he said we can recoup all of the money that we are spending right now on people just sitting around doing nothing.

Councilman Dougherty said that he said we are confident that we can help the City of Tombstone recover the claim cost.

Korbeck-Reeder said that my biggest concern is we have employees that are doing nothing and making upwards of $20 an hour.

Councilman Troncale asked what employees are sitting around doing nothing.

Korbeck-Reeder said that I donít think that is something we should name names on.

Councilman Troncale asked if these are current employees of the city.

Korbeck-Reeder said yes.

Councilman Dougherty asked why they arenít up in the mountains five days a week taking care of this stuff. Is there any direction in another direction for them not to be up there working on the springs that I am not aware of?

City Clerk Barnes said that the crew that exists right now are four people. The Project Manager is now spending time with the reporting requirements for Arizona Department of Emergency Management, the $50,000 we were originally allocated because of that is more like in excess of $90,000 they have indicated to us that they are willing to work toward more covered costs. The two people that are the laborers are working three days a week per the direction of the Mayor in the Springs. The Project Safety Manager is doing safety training for the public works folks and is managing the response for the requests from ADEQ for mediation on waste water and accompanying the work crews on the days it important. They are busy doing stuff but it may not appear that way.

Mayor Schmidt said that the first question is why are we addressing the Huachuca Mountain crew at this time with the pending lawsuit, for this I cannot really give a simple answer. The first part of the answer can be found in the City Code under the Mayorís Duties. He shall from time to time provide for the City Council such information recommends such measures as it may be beneficial to the city. As Iíve said before the only reason I can figure is because of my selection of Director of Public Works. I have talked to the members of Public Works and they believe they could take over the work being done on the springs. It has been stated that some understand the hiring process because they have worked with large corporations. I too have worked for large corporations; I have worked on federal projects, large type venues, I have worked not as an employee but as a sub-contractor with productivity as well as price on the terms that get you the job. If you donít make money you wonít be in business very long. I do not like waste no matter who is paying for it, I believe we are currently getting about 160 gallons per minute from the springs. To have a crew unable to make any real strides because of the red tape thrown up by the Forest Service seems like a waste. Since we already have over the allowed amount of emergency funding from the state, this is still tax payerís money that is being spent. We are having purchases made for things like ball joints and diesel fuel stabilizer; do we really need that for wheel barrels? The person who made the purchases was not even on the payroll at the time. An open door purchasing policy does not make much sense; do we really need seat covers for the Humvees? I also have a problem with a situation where employees think they need to be armed carrying guns in city vehicles. This is not a good policy, what about insurance? To have a picture on the front page of an international newspaper of an employee with a gun does not look good. We already have a full time employee with anger management problems, if something happens will we hear about how everyone else does it. Vandalism has always been a problem at the springs, there is always people who hike the mountains and would rather see the water running down the mountains than into our aqueduct. They roll boulders into the catch basin along with leaves and dirt, anything to obstruct the flow into the pipe. In the past we have always had to go to the springs once or twice a week to check on them. Iíve talked with Marshal Cloud and he is checking into motion detection cameras through the Forestry Service Enforcement Division. The Forestry Service would install them and prosecute any criminal activity including vandalism of our springs. Reaching out to the Forestry Service might help free up permits, donít get me wrong I am not saying abandon our rights to the springs. What I am saying is I think our responsibility is to try to get the most bang for our buck at the springs and for the residents and tax payers. Maybe we should step back and assess the situation; I donít think creating positions is necessary.

Councilman Dougherty said that he would like to get an opinion from the City Attorney.

City Clerk Barnes said that he would like to make a couple of corrections. The flows are seasonal; right now we believe it is more like 90 gallons a minute to 110. At one point it did flow at a higher level. If you want to have legal advice from the City Attorney you certainly can but it would not be wise to do it in an open session.

Councilman Dougherty made a motion to move into executive session and seconded by Councilman Troncale. The meeting then moved into an executive session. After the Council reconvened there was no action and they moved on to item B.