In a committee meeting of the Water, Sewer and Storm Drain Departments of the City of Live Oak, Mayor Jason Banks and Vice Mayor Aleks Tica recommended that the City General Fund reimburse the Water account $75k.

This recommendation will be brought to the entire Council at their September 6, 2017 regular meeting.

Of utmost concern to the people of Live Oak apparently is the upcoming vote for a 91 percent increase to the water rate. Mayor Banks had previously stated to this newspaper that the City does not pay for water used at many of their own properties but clarified before this meeting that it wasn't as bad as he had thought. Many of the city facilities are metered after all.

The City, however, has not paid for the Pennington Ranch Park water and in a comparison with Memorial Park (which is not metered on the large grassy area) on Pennington Road the Mayor and Vic Mayor Tica agreed it would probably amount to at least $50,000 for the two-and-a-half years but without a cost analysis that the Council had previously requested from staff they agreed $75,000 would be a fair amount for the people of Live Oak.

Finance Director Joe Aguilar explained that the council would need to vote for the increase after the September 7 focus meeting at the community center and two readings which would make the vote sometime in October.

"It would most likely be reflected on the November utility bill," Aguilar told those attending the August 30 meeting.

With a first and second reading required, the increase could not be put into place for 45 days after the September 27, 2017 meeting when Council members are expected to vote on the matter.

A very lengthy discussion followed regarding the percentage of salaries that come from the Water and Sewer accounts.

The percentages of the City Manager, Administrative Assistant and two clerks wages directly paid from the Water and Sewer Funds was the biggest concern for the Mayor and Vice Mayor as they met with Aguilar, Public Works Facility Manager Ron Walker, and City Clerk Hope Ithurburn and Attorney Nicole Delrio.

City Manager Jim Goodwin had left for the day on a family emergency.

"I am very disappointed the City Manager refuses to do time studies on himself and other employees. It speaks volumes," Mayor Banks stated. "I would like to see the salary allocation at 25 percent each month maximum until time studies come back. If it is more, we adjust to do it later. It does not seem fair to the citizens," Mayor Banks said.

"I'll take a pay cut. I want to do the right thing," he said."I am most bothered by the amount coming out of Water and Sewer to pay employees because no time study is available to justify."

Vice Mayor Tica asked Mayor Banks to consider 30 percent maximum for the finance department and the Mayor agreed until time studies are provided.

"This is a show of good faith to the people. It shows we are flexible as well," he explained.

Mayor Banks asked for three months time studies which could be 30 percent for water and 30 percent sewer time spent by the finance staff.

"Two positions are 100 percent funded through water and sewer. it is hard to fathom two full time employees spending every minute here, 100 percent of their time on water and sewer," he pointed out.

"We need the reality of the numbers not charge the citizens on good faith," he said.

Aguilar stated the Mayor might be correct that 100 percent of the time spent by two positions are not spent in these departments but he believes they would spend 90 to 95 percent of their time explaining the employees fill in when others are on break or at lunch where they accepti payments and answer phones.

Mayor Banks asked Aguilar when the last time studies were done for the City and was told 2003.

"When was the last time you replaced your cell phone?" he asked Aguilar to which Aguilar answered "last year."

"Me too. Time studies were not provided to council even though they have been requested numerous times. Two salaries at 100 percent out of water and sewer departments and one at 70 percent and one at 80 percent respectively. We will only have two weeks to study this now. We need three to six months to know what we have. This has not been done since before we came here in 2013.

"I find it simply unfathomable," the Mayor stated. "We have it in past council minutes posted where the full council asked and expected to receive adjusted allocations.

"Councilwoman Hodges and I gave direction to go back two years. I'm not understanding why staff direction is opposite. We made it clear and direct," Mayor Banks said. The Mayor and Councilwoman Hodges are normally the Council representatives for the monthly committee meeting of the Water, Sewer and Storm Drain Committee. Vice Mayor Tica was called to fill in at the last minute when Councilwoman Hodges could not attend.

"We owe the citizens at least $60,000. I'd like to pay $75,000. When we have not paid our fair share. I've been on City Council two years. This doesn't feel right," the Mayor stated.

Walker told the committee that the City has seven parks and he was not sure how many are metered. "We are still looking into it," he stated.

Mayor Banks conceded some city property is metered but not paid by the City currently which he feels is included in the proposed $75,000 to be moved from the General Fund account to Water and Sewer Departments.

"Prop 218 says we have to show benefit to the people," he stated.

Tonight's council meeting begins at 6 p.m., at City Hall.