City officials not fazed by audit

Pauls Valley city officials don't appear to really be that fazed by the idea their books will get a close inspection next year thanks to a recent citizens petition drive.

The drive in September and October, the second one in 2020, did collect enough signatures to call for state officials to conduct an investigative audit of the city of Pauls Valley as a focus will be on the operations of PV's hospital before and after it closed in 2018.

Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd is estimating a comprehensive audit of this type could start in June 2021 and possibly take about six months to complete.

Pauls Valley Mayor Jocelyn Rushing says she's not too concerned about an audit by the state auditor's office, especially since the city has for some time been audited by an independent auditor every year.

“When it comes to the audit, I'm open to that,” Rushing said. “I want citizens of Pauls Valley to understand that most audits do find some things, but with this it might not be what you're looking for.

“I will be so excited when this is done and people can stop buying into the bull.

“After the audit if someone is still unhappy with us I invite you to come sign up and run for the council. I do this because I want the citizens to have representation.”

Rushing's comments came during a recent council meeting where some concerns were expressed about how next year's audit will be paid for as estimates have it falling between $40,000 and $80,000.

“The audit will have to be paid for. Regardless of how we decide to pay for it we all will be a part of it. How that will happen I don't know yet,” Rushing added.

“We'll all just have to bite the bullet.”

City Manager James Frizell said an audit for the city is nothing new since it's the city that pays to have an audit done every year.

“We're not afraid of an audit,” Frizell said.

“The cost is a concern, but we maintain our P's and Q's on a regular basis. We're not running away from an audit, especially since we pay for a full audit every year anyway.

“Is there any set way of paying for it – no. We're not going to budget for that cost until obviously we know more about it. When we get a better idea of what the cost is we'll figure out what we need to do to budget for it.

“It could just be moving money around or it could be something else. There's no way to comment specifically on how we're going to pay for the audit until we know more.

“In the end it will be taxpayer money that pays for the audit.”

The city manager says the pandemic had a huge impact on the local sales tax revenues over the first three months of the virus threat.

That was back in March when so many local businesses and even city facilities were closed. A few months later things started to open back up, even on a limited basis, leading to revenues rebounding back up to healthy levels.

Another impact of the early pandemic days came with some city employees temporarily losing their jobs through furloughs, while others continued working but with at least one mandatory unpaid day off each pay period.

“Once we got through the rough spots our revenue started to pick back up. It was good enough where we were able to get some employees back on the job. We have recovered since then.”

•••

City officials approved a new state of emergency resolution in Pauls Valley with a series of COVID-19 protocols meant to follow the safety guidelines set out by national health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This one adds to another approved last March when the pandemic was first recognized here as a threat.

Frizell says it simply puts in writing the city's recommendation for the local public to wear masks when out in public as a way to limit the potential spread of the virus.

“Although we're not mandating wearing a mask we are recommending it when you're in a public meeting, out shopping or whatever,” Frizell said.

“We're recommending people go by the CDC guidelines. We're following the CDC's safety guidelines as good as we possibly can. It changes and we try to keep up.

“I'm still requiring my people, if they come up positive, to quarantine for 10 days. I still think it's safe for 10 days, so for our people it's a 10-day quarantine period.”

•••

The council also approved during a Nov. 8 meeting the initial steps to begin the process of closing a local construction and demolition landfill.

Normally referred to as a C&D landfill, the local site is located south of Pauls Valley.

“We have no choice but to close the C&D landfill,” Frizell said.

“We will start the process of closing it in an environmentally correct way. It will be costly in the end but that's what's needed.”

The C&D landfill here has been used for the last 20 years to collect various types of building items like concrete, asphalt, wood, drywall, metals, bricks and glass.

The planned closure is what's considered “end of life” for this landfill as Frizell says it's just gotten to the point where it needs to be closed.

Later the city will go out for bids to cover the landfill site at some point in the future.

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