Quarterly Report: 2009, April - June (Q4), Ekwok

Community:
Ekwok 
Staff:
Ralph Andrew  
DCRA Regional Office:
 
Gov't Type:
Second Class City 
Borough:
 
Agreement?
No 
Agreement Date:
 
Entity:
City of Ekwok 
Population:
108  
Assessment Status:
 
Assessment Date:
 
Exp Date:
 
Last Updated:
8/10/2009 
Community Sanitation Overview:
Individual wells provide water for the majority of the community. Approximately 20 HUD homes have individual wells and are connected to a piped septic system. The City operates a piped sewage system with sewage lift station, which connects to a portion of the community, roughly 16 residences. The remaining homes use septic systems or a flush/haul system. The city operates a sewage pumper. Roughly thirty six of 42 homes have complete plumbing. Landfill services are available at no charge. Ekwok Electric, a city-owned utility, provides electricity services. 
RUBA Status & Activities This Qtr:
RUBA provided onsite utility management assistance to city staff with a focus on resolution of deficient RUBA indicators twice during the quarter on March 30-April 2 and June 22-23, 2009. City staff continue working to resolve deficient RUBA assessment indicators with the intention of improving utility sustainabilty and ensuring access to state sanitation grant funding. Some progress is apparent and the administrator has been maintaining contact and seeking continued assistance from RUBA. The RUBA management assessment is a special sanitation grant condition for state Village Safe Water grant funding. Of note, the city is working with other local entities and a consultant to update its comprehensive community plan. Also, the city has been in contact with agencies including Denali Commission concerning the fuel tank farm and electric plant it operates which was shut down temporarily in late spring after an ice jam created high water conditions at the site. 
RUBA Activities for the Coming Qtr:
RUBA will continue offering assistance to the city with a focus on resolving deficient RUBA Essential Indicators.
Scores:
 
Essential Indicators:
16 of 27
Sustainable Indicators:
10 of 27
Total Score:
26 of 54

Finances

Essential Indicators
Answer Question
Yes All revenues and expenses for the utility are listed in the utility budget.
Yes The utility has adopted a balanced realistic budget.
No Monthly financial reports are prepared and submitted to the policy making board.
Yes The utility is current in paying all water/wastewater electric bills.
Yes The utility has on hand a year's adequate fuel supply or it has a financial plan to purchase an adequate supply.
No The utility is receiving revenues (user fees or other sources) sufficient to cover operating expenses.
Sustainable Indicators
Answer Question
No The utility is receiving revenues (user fees or other sources sufficient to cover operating expenses and Repair & Replacement (R) costs.
No YTD revenues are at a level equal to or above those budgeted.
No YTD expenditures are at a level equal to or below those budgeted.
No A monthly manager's report is prepared.
Yes Budget amendments are completed and adopted as necessary.
Finances Comments
The FY09 water/wastewater budget is balanced and realistic. Water/wastewater monthly financial reports do not presently appear accurate and up to date. RUBA provided onsite assistance with assembly of accurate monthly reports in early April and again in June and will update this report upon receipt of a current report. City staff report that fuel supplies for the water/wastewater utility are sufficient; only 250 gallons is required according to the city staff. Of note, the city has been having diesel fuel flown in after retail supplies ran short. Water/wastewater electric bills are current; the city operates the electric utility. RUBA continues to recommend lift station power consumption be monitored closely to gauge annual power use to improve both operational and financial planning. Staff present a utility manager report verbally to the city council however RUBA awaits confirmation that the report is consistently presented.

Accounting Systems

Essential Indicators
Answer Question
No The utility has adopted a collection policy and actively follows it.
No The utility bills customers on a regular basis.
Yes An accounts receivable system is in place which tracks customers and reports past due accounts and amounts.
No An accounts payable system is in place.
No The payroll system correctly calculates payroll and keeps records.
Yes A cash receipt system is in place that records incoming money and how it was spent.
Yes The utility has a cash disbursement system that records how money was spent.
Sustainable Indicators
Answer Question
No A chart of accounts is used that identifies categories in a reasonable, usable manner.
No Monthly bank reconciliations have been completed for all utility accounts.
No The utility has a purchasing system that requires approval prior to purchase, and the approval process compares proposed purchases to budgeted amounts.
Accounting Systems Comments
Billing for septic pumping services has been timely however in prior quarters, RUBA awaits confirmation in the form of an accurate monthly financial report. Accounting systems appear improved for receivables however, RUBA awaits confirmation of an accounts payable system. During this quarter RUBA provided onsite assistance with accounting and recordkeeping systems and provided followup assistance in the form of templates and sample procedures as published by DCRA in its Model Financial Recordkeeping system. It should be noted that the administrator is reviewing ways to improve the accounting system including assembly of customized spreadsheets to improve tracking and transparency of receivables. The current status of collections is not confirmed. Presently, the city charges a septic pumping fee of $40 per load but does not charge for wastewater services - a connection to the sewage lagoon - a service that is provided to several homes in the community. RUBA will seek confirmation of consistent utility billing, payroll processing, and other bookkeeping tasks in the coming quarter and offered continued assistance upon request.

Tax Problems

Essential Indicators
Answer Question
No The utility has a system to accurately calculate, track, and report payroll tax liabilities.
Yes The utility is current on filing tax reports.
No The utility is current on making tax deposits.
No If there are any past due tax liabilities or recorded tax liens, a lien release has been issued or a repayment agreement has been signed and repayments are current.
Tax Problems Comments
According to the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service on June 30, 2009, the city is complying with some but not all federal tax obligations. RUBA continues offering assistance to city staff as they review federal tax obligatons. City staff uses a spreadsheet based payroll system provided by RUBA in recent years. RUBA reviewed the spreadsheet formulas, made improvements to the spreadsheet, and provided guidance to the administrator on proper payroll procedures onsite during the quarter. On June 19, 2009 the Alaska Department of Labor (DOL) confirmed the city is meeting Alaska ESC tax obligations for the quarter ending March 31, 2009.

Personnel System

Essential Indicators
Answer Question
Yes The utility has a posted workers compensation insurance policy in effect.
Sustainable Indicators
Answer Question
No The utility has adopted and uses a Personnel Policy, which has been reviewed by an attorney, AML or Commerce for topics and language.
Yes The utility has adequate written job descriptions for all positions.
No The utility has adopted and follows a written personnel evaluation process that ties the job description to the evaluation.
Yes The utility has an adequate written hiring process.
No The utility has personnel folders on every employee that contain at least: I-9, Job Application and Letter of Acceptance.
Yes The utility has a probationary period for new hires that includes orientation, job training/oversight, and evaluations.
Yes The utility provides training opportunities to staff as needed and available.
Personnel System Comments
The city provided an employer's notice of insurance for Workers' Compensation showing coverage through July 1, 2009. The utility uses the city's personnel handbook, a comprehensive policy RUBA reviewed onsite during visits in prior quarters. The city ordinances include job descriptions for utility staff. RUBA recommends job descriptions be reviewed at least annually. The city administrator and RUBA reviewed employee files onsite during the quarter; the adminsitrator continues updating the content of employee files to ensure they are complete and up to date with documentation including I-9 forms and Form W-4.

Organizational Management

Essential Indicators
Answer Question
Yes The entity that owns the utility is known; the entity that will operate the utility is set.
No The policy making body is active in policy making of the utility.
No The policy making body enforces utility policy.
Yes The utility has an adequately trained manager.
Yes The utility has an adequately trained bookkeeper.
Yes The utility has an adequately trained operator or operators.
Yes The utility has adopted the necessary ordinances (or rules and regulations) necessary to give it the authority to operate.
Sustainable Indicators
Answer Question
No The utility has adopted an organizational chart that reflects the current structure.
No The policy making body meets as required.
Yes The utility complies with the open meeting act for all meetings.
Organizational Management Comments
The city council serves as the utility board and operates under a water/wastewater ordinance. The ordinance is presently in review at the city; RUBA provided samples of more comprehensive ordinances published by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska. RUBA awaits confirmation from the city that collections and utility policy are being enforced. The administrator is trained, experienced in the role, and serves as utility manager. The electric utility manager is also trained and serves as the primary water operator and at last report is serving as mayor. Training opportunities for staff including fuel utility operator training is planned. The city can benefit from assembly of an organizational chart. RUBA seeks to confirm that the policy making body is holding regular meetings and has requested copies of meeting minutes and agendas.

Operation of Utility

Essential Indicators
Answer Question
Yes The utility operator(s) are actively working towards necessary certification.
Yes The utility has a preventative maintenance plan developed for the existing sanitation facilities.
Sustainable Indicators
Answer Question
No The manager receives a monthly O&M report from the utility operator and routinely "spot checks" the facilities to see that the maintenance items are being completed.
No The utility has a safety manual and holds safety meetings.
No Utility facilities have not suffered any major problems/outages due to management issues that are unresolved.
No The utility is operating at the level of service that was proposed.
No The operator provides status reports to the manager on a routine basis.
Yes The utility has completed and distributed its "Consumer Confidence Report".
Yes The utility is not on the "Significant Non-Complier" (SNC) list.
Yes The utility maintains an inventory control list.
Yes The utility maintains a critical spare parts list.
Operation of Utility Comments
The city is not required to have a certified water operator or wastewater operator at this time. Sanitation utility staff are trained in the use of heavy equipment. RUBA recommends staff who provide septic pumping services receive basic training including safety procedures. A preventative maintenance plan is in place. RUBA recommends safety meetings be held no less than monthly. The village council operates a summer-only watering point located centrally in Ekwok. RUBA recommends the city stock and maintain a more comprehensive inventory and critical spare parts list including spare tires for the septic pumper.