The Duncan Banner


March 3, 2013

More city questions, answers

DUNCAN — A conversation about Duncan with City Manager Jim Frieda, prompted by a recent series of stories in The Banner, continues today.

  Question: How much money does the city have in its reserve fund?  Is there a benchmark you seek or a goal you maintain? What triggers its use?

  Frieda: We have $1.68 million in unrestricted funds. Our current focus is to reduce unfunded liabilities and debt. Not being able to meet our monthly bills, not being able to meet billing for our wholesale electricity, having a catastrophic failure in our electric services or facing a need for immediate monies would trigger its use.  

  Question:  Are revenues for city utilities considered profit?

  Frieda: The City/Duncan Public Utilities Authority (DPUA) has to satisfy all the same expenses as investor-owned utilities (labor costs, equipment, materials etc.). Net revenues, however, are not paid to investors. They are returned to citizens who purchase water and electricity, supporting fire and police departments, animal control, street repairs, water line breaks, city lakes, airport improvements, parks, cemetery, swimming pool and all the things that make Duncan a great place to live.

  Question: Are you pleased with the Honeywell project? Is the more accurate reading affecting city revenue? What is the payout date?

  Frieda: Meter accuracy has improved. The project has increased revenues. In the long run, utility billing will be enhanced and the process to identify meters that are functioning properly will be simplified. A memo I wrote in February 2012 said, in part: “The project has been a painful process. It has required many painful and sometimes contentious (steps)…to acquire the product desired in a manner and time represented in the contract documents. The city has been reluctant to release funds because various portions of the contract were behind schedule. It appears…Honeywell was motivated by our refusal to release funds, rather than a desire to please customers.”

  More than a year after the contract completion, the City remains in a situation where readings are received, on the average, at a 97 percent rate for use in the billing cycle. That means additional manual input is necessary. As a result, negotiations to improve the warranty and the product continue.

  The payout date is Sept. 15, 2030.

  Question: Would you like the city to have more input in directing how revenue generated from the earmarked half-cent economic development tax is distributed?

  Frieda: This is a difficult and sensitive question. Let me be clear. My answer is mine alone and does not infer a council opinion.  DAEDF has a dedicated, professional staff that works diligently to draw business here. Its board members have a myriad of talents and unquestionable business experience. But we must remember, the tax may only be collected by the municipal government with revenues transferred to the Economic Development Trust Authority. A contract between DAEDF and the Trust allows the Foundation to use those revenues for economic development. The fund contains in excess of $9 million. All of the funds are secured by interest bearing investments.

  It is fair to say the Foundation, because of the contract, is concerned with industrialization only.  That said, I would like to see the city have input in directing how the half-cent is utilized.  We have a good relationship and that’s important. I would, however, like to see the city have a greater impact on the process.

  Question:  Streets have been a major Duncan problem for decades. What happens should the proposed May general obligation bond election fail?

  Frieda: Our staff has been diligent in putting together a plan for street improvements. It is a good plan. I have been open about the size of our existing debt -- $54,846,543.94 – and the fact we spend $6 million a year for debt service. It has been my goal to reduce debt. But to borrow more money to repair streets while paying off the $10 million we borrowed (in 2007 for street repairs) is just bad business. If the bond fails, I will try to direct additional capital improvement funds to street maintenance. Doing that, of course, means using funds earmarked for other projects.

  Question: Are you pleased with changes made to better manage city investments and funds?

  Frieda: Yes. I am pleased the Mayor and Council participated in making changes. They were done in open session and insure an active role of the Mayor when the investment committee meets. They approved the investment policy as it relates to the type of investments the City can make. The City also changed the type of contract it had with its investment advisor to allow the City to take a more active role in decisions. It allows the staff and Mayor to exercise discretion in the process. I just felt the City did not have sufficient control of investments. The contract with our advisor needed some modifications with the City approving the contract modifications and the Mayor signing for the City.

  NEXT WEEK: Leisure time activities are the subject.

580-255-5354, Ext. 130

Text Only
  • Governor, state Legislature have misplaced priorities

    If the Oklahoma State Legislators and our Governor spent less time interfering in women’s rights to manage their bodies, creating ways to lay more taxes and fees on the middle class in order to generate more tax breaks which benefit only the wealthy while also conceiving methods with which to fill Oklahoma’s for-profit prisons, they would be doing all of us a favor. Instead, why not work to enhance funding for our schools and wage increases for all school employees? While reforming the state’s educational budget, why don’t they approve wage increases for our Oklahoma State Troopers and enlarge their Academy to insure qualified individuals are ready to fill the upcoming vacancies as many of the older force retire?

    April 9, 2014

  • Self government key to keeping politicians in check

    Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that federal campaign laws that limit the total amount of money donors can give to political parties, committees and candidates for federal office (U.S. House, Senate, and President) was unconstitutional. The ruling will not increase the current $2,600 limit on how much a donor can give to a federal candidate in each primary and general election or the $32,400 limit that can go to a national party committee. Those limits are still in place.  The ruling will instead remove the limit on how many candidates/committees to which a donor can contribute.

    April 9, 2014

  • Legislative goals crucial to priorities in education

    I am a member of several professional organizations where I attend regular meetings, network with colleagues, and stay abreast and informed on education best practices.  The Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, better known as CCOSA, is a nonprofit organization that establishes close and continuous communication and cooperation between educators, taxpayers, and legislators to improve the effectiveness of professional school administrators and to communicate the needs of schools. Attendance this time of year is especially critical because legislators are in session.

    March 28, 2014

  • An impressive ranking that could be better

    That Duncan was named one of the best 15 communities in Oklahoma by Movoto, a national Real Estate company, is news worth celebrating.
    Of 43 places with population of 10,000 or more, as determined by the U.S. Census data, Duncan finished 15th. Norman was first, Edmond second, Yukon and Moore tied for third and Bethany was fifth.

    March 9, 2014

  • Kids shouldn’t have to pay for having punster parents

    Friends and neighbors, I’ve been cloistered in my Thought Chamber for the past few days, contemplating many high-brow philosophies and haughty hypothesis that we who think on a different level use to exercise our finely-tuned minds and remain intellectually superior to the Great Unwashed.
    As you see, the time alone has been intellectually beneficial. I just composed an opening sentence (what we in the journalism dodge call a “lead”) that’s 46 words long.

    March 9, 2014

  • The blissful serenity of No-TV Land

    Life without TV is possible. Maybe you should try it. I did. It’s a do-able thing, I tell you. I’m still here, no worse the wear, no oozing wounds, no serious loss of brainwave activity except for the slow, inexorable downhill decline that already started when TV viewing was a daily occurrence.

    Granted, two months without the tube is quite likely not a scientifically acceptable sample from which is to hold forth. But it’s the best I can do, so deal with it.

    March 9, 2014

  • Cooper’s message is to remain active

    Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the Dallas physician who coined the phrase “aerobics” more than four decades ago, who has become a world leader in physical fitness and who has saved, literally, thousands of lives by promoting the value of an active lifestyle, shared his philosophy of life here last week.

    March 9, 2014

  • Time to take the “B” out of the “Three R’s”

    Our young folks are hitting the stretch drive toward the end of another school year, during which they’ve been taught “Three R’s”, which are not really “r’s” at all.
    In case you missed it, reading is the only one of the “Three R’s” that actually begins with the letter “r.” Writing starts with a “w” and arithmetic begins with the letter “a.” There are two reasons we drop the “w” from “writing” and the “a” from “arithmetic”: 1. For poetic flow in the age-old saying; and, 2. many people have a secret yen to talk like the Beverly Hillbillies.

    February 23, 2014

  • Thank you for lettin’ me be myself again

    Friends and neighbors, hope I don’t sound like the biggest egomaniac since Donald Trump, but you know, I am the most interesting person I’ve ever known.
    Forgive me if — on first blush — that sounds like the most totally self-aggrandizing statement you’ve ever heard. And if you’ve headed to the restroom to express an editorial opinion about the statement above, I’ll stop for a couple minutes.

    February 15, 2014

  • Buzz misfired in Vanity Fair body slam of Duncan

    As the new kid in town, I’m reluctant to leap atop the ramparts to defend the honor of Duncan, Okla., my new adopted hometown.
    But to heck with that. When an out-of-towner comes into your house and soils your rug, it’s on.
    I speak, of course, about the article in Vanity Fair magazine about Duncan and the  killing last year of Chris Lane, the Australian who was gunned down in August.

    January 24, 2014