BY DAVID FISHER
DRESDEN (February 1) — The Dresden City Board discussed the City’s audit for fiscal year 2019-2020, and dealt with several other important issues, during its regular monthly meeting held Monday, February 1, at Dresden City Hall. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, public viewing of the meeting was held electronically via YouTube Live.
A representative of Dresden’s auditing firm, John R. Poole, CPA, was not present to give a verbal explanation of the 2019-2020 fiscal year audit, however, city officials answered questions from alderpersons regarding the city’s financial status.
The Board discussed audit highlights of the City of Dresden’s financial records for fiscal year 2020.
Mayor Washburn stated during the 2019-2020 fiscal year, there was a significant increase in sales tax collections. “We had an excess of $200,000, which went back into our surplus revenues. When we took on the Walking Trail and Farmers Market projects, as well as the transportation grant down Evergreen Street, we had a huge decrease in our revenues, particularly in our General Fund surplus revenues, to such a point, the board approved borrowing money from the Water Fund for about two or three years. We’ve not had that problem in the last year or two. Our revenues have grown where we don’t have to borrow money to continue operating until monies come in. That’s a good thing. That’s where we want to be.” He added Dresden “is on target for sales tax and property tax collections. Even with COVID, we’ve done well as a city in maintaining our revenue flow.”
“It was a good audit report,” Mayor Washburn said. “There are no findings in the audit, other than not having enough people.” This involves the segregation of duties. He noted the same finding on audit reports all across the state. He explained “municipalities don’t have the money needed to hire enough people to meet their expectations.”
Mayor Washburn stated the audit shows Dresden has had revenue growth and has not had some of the problems other cities have experienced. The mayor mentioned the streetlights are on track to be paid off sooner than originally planned.
Finance Director Carla Edwards said, “The fire engine, and the American Drive property received funding out of the Water and Sewer Fund, and should be paid off in the next fiscal year. And the tractor, with mowing attachments, was purchased outright.”
Following a public hearing held minutes prior to Monday night’s meeting, the Board approved the second and final reading of an ordinance amending the City of Dresden’s Municipal Zoning Map, which rezones property located at 145 East Main St., from B-2 (Central Business) to R-2 (Medium-Density Residential), as recommended by the Dresden Municipal/Regional Planning Commission.
According to Stan Hurt, who owns the property, there is a shortage of good housing to rent in Dresden. He stated rezoning would make it possible for him to install two houses on the 19,500 sq. ft. lot. He originally requested the property be rezoned from B-2 (Central Business) to R-1 (Low-Density Residential), which would only allow for the construction of a single house at that location.
A motion by Alderman Gwin Anderson to approve an ordinance rezoning 145 E. Main St. to R-2 was approved on second and final reading.
A resolution authorizing the City’s acceptance of a $1,000 donation from the McWherter Foundation to the Ned R. McWherter Civic Center for repairs and maintenance of the stalls in restrooms and to make other parts of the interior of the facility more inviting and attractive to the public was unanimously approved.
A General Fund resolution amending the fiscal year 2021 budget to show the $1,000 donation from the McWherter Foundation was also approved.
Mayor Washburn stated the Civic Center is where the Health Department is giving vaccinations. Vehicles have been lining up along South Parkway and pull underneath the canopy to take advantage of the drive-through service. COVID-19 testing is also conducted at this location. “We need some signage to direct traffic to the Civic Center,” he said.
This resolution also amends the General Fund and Water Fund for various departments to make adjustments to the City’s pension contribution. After reviewing the September 2020 Actuarial Variation Report, the City’s budgeted contribution amounts were too low, based on the required contribution. The amendment, which allocates $4,000 out of Fund Balance, keeps the City in compliance with its contribution to the fund.
A third resolution approved by the board is a Small Cities Block Grant for fiscal year 2021, for smoke testing 10,000 linier feet and rehabbing the sewer lines where there is rainwater infiltration. During heavy rains, the excess water causes the city to exceed its limit of 700,000 per day.
The city’s portion of the $450,000 grant, if awarded, would amount to 15 percent or approximately $67,500, which would come out of the Sewer Fund.
The grant recipients will not be announced until October 2022.
Sewer Project Bids
After reviewing sewer project bids, the City approved the low bid of $36,500, submitted by Bobby Luttrell & Sons, LLC. The job includes smoke testing, as well as cleaning and video inspecting 1,000 linear feet of sewer line identified by the City. Bobby Luttrell & Sons, LLC also submitted the low bid of $175 per hour for cleaning, if needed; and the removal of protruding sewer service costing $250 each, if required.
Mayor Washburn stated plans call for concentrating on the older parts of town, where a lot of the problems have been identified, including the downtown area and streets branching off from it. Additionally, the city is seeking state funding to help offset the cost of the project.
Communications from The Mayor
Mayor Jeff Washburn stated his objections to merging the Weakley County Economic Development District (WCEDD) and Weakley County Chamber of Commerce, saying, “It’s something that concerns me, even though I was initially in favor of it.”
“I’ve been fairly vocal with my concerns about when someone calls the WCEDD and submitted requests for proposals for sites in our city, are we being treated fairly, or if someone else is cherry-picking (other sites) before we get a chance. I have been told that’s occurred.”
(See separate article, “Washburn Expresses Proposed Merger Concerns.”)
In other city business, Mayor Washburn said, “We have received certification from the U.S. Census Bureau for our assistance in taking the local census over the past year.”
The Mayor also mentioned representatives from the Tennessee Department of Transportation were in Dresden on Friday regarding a traffic study, and photographed areas where street improvements are planned using a drone. These areas include Church Street to Highway 22; Linden Street, beginning at Dresden Farmers Market, to Highway 22, particularly where Linden Street intersects with Highway 22; and the intersection of Pikeview Street and Highway 22, where the construction of a merging lane is being considered. The photographs of these areas were reviewed by consultants hired by TDOT, and they are in the process of drafting a plan to implement these projects. The TDOT representatives also asked about other areas of Dresden, including Cedar Street to Parkway Street. They noted Cedar Street is narrow and there are no shoulders for traffic to pull over, or for pedestrians to walk.
Regarding condemned properties, Mayor Washburn stated someone has been hired to remove the old house on Linden Street with a backhoe.
Public Works Director Kerry Cooper reported the City’s new tractor has been delivered.
Mayor Washburn stated aerators and controls at the lagoon were repaired, and the control panels for the variable pumps at the water plant were upgraded. “We don’t have a sudden surge (of water pressure) when the water kicks on anymore,” he said.
Parks and Recreation Director Joey Winstead stated he hasn’t heard from the leagues yet concerning whether or not there will be a baseball program at the park this year. “It probably depends on the guidance from the governor’s office,” Winstead said.
Alderman Lyndal Dilday reported part of the decking and shingles on the portable building are gone and need to be repaired. He also inquired if the building is owned by the city or the Weakley County School System.
Winstead stated he believes it belongs to the city.
Mayor Washburn mentioned there is also debris around the building.
“I’ll get that taken care of,” Winstead said.
“We’re also looking for grants for park improvements,” Mayor Washburn said. “We’ve talked about obtaining additional acreage for practice fields and soccer fields. We could probably buy some land, if we could find some for sale. The elementary school property is not going to be available. They’re going to use it for a future school park.”
In the fire department report, Mayor Washburn said, “Our fire truck is on target to be delivered. We received preliminary drawings of it that we have reviewed.”
Fire Chief Paul Hutcherson stated the fire truck is supposed to be delivered in June or July.
Mayor Washburn stated he spoke with Chief Hutcherson in the past about building a new fire station. “If we keep paying off the current debt we have right now, in about four years, we’re going to be debt free.” He stated the city will begin exploring the possibility of constructing a fire station by looking at the structures built by other small towns in the region, and looking into procuring a grant to help cover the cost of the project.
Alderman Dilday stated the shoulder of the road is beginning to collapse at the bridge project near Champion Homes.
Mayor Washburn stated the city’s new tractor would be used to push back some of the shoulders, and clear away limbs so drivers won’t hit vehicles while traveling down the road.
The Board approved the committee list, indicating the names of those serving on the City of Dresden’s various committees, boards and commissions, including: the Industrial Board, Personnel Committee, Beer Board, Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals, City Beautification Committee, Condemnation Board, and the Arts in Dresden Committee.
The Police Review and Fire Department Review committees were eliminated, as they are not specified in the City Code. Former Dresden Mayor Danny Forrester created these committees. In the 14-plus years the committees have been in existence, they have not been required to meet and therefore are not deemed necessary as standing committees. Appointments to the committee would be made by the mayor. Should any business be required of this nature, the Personnel Committee would be an appropriate committee to address any reviews.
Concerning committee appointments, he noted the Beer Board has been expanded from three to five members.
In announcements, Mayor Washburn reminded Board members the next regular meeting is at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 1.