The Washington City Council will do away with a standing agenda item that may be delaying the payment of some bills and services.
During the Tuesday, Sept. 5, council meeting, City Attorney Mark Piontek said the agenda item that calls for approval of payments over $40,000 is unnecessary.
“You really don’t have the option to pay or not,” he said. “If you don’t pay your utility bill, you are not going to get power.”
For example, at last week’s meeting, the council was asked to approve a $122,000 bill to United Health Care for insurance premiums, $80,000 to Ameren Missouri for estimated August energy use, $40,000 to LAGERS, which provides retirement benefits to city employees; and a debt service payment of $97,435.33 to UMB Bank.
Councilman Jeff Mohesky noted that several years ago the council asked for an itemized list of bills to be approved by the full council.
“The council was not trusting the money being spent,” he said. “They were micromanaging everything.”
Council members already are provided a list of these bills.
“So this is just completely redundant?” asked Councilwoman Susan Wattermann.
City Administrator Darren Lamb replied the council already receives the information and there is “no reason” to continue the approval process.
He added there has been instances when payment is needed before the council can approve the agenda item.
“We have had to make partial payments because our finance department has not cut a check until it is approved by the city council,” Lamb said.
Public Service Director John Nilges noted there have been two instances in the past few years that payment for services could not be made in time. During those instances a request for payment was submitted to the city days after the second council meeting of the month, held the third Monday.
He said if there are five Mondays in that month it could be four weeks before the requested payment could be made.
It was asked if the city should eliminate the agenda item to pay monthly legal fees to Lewis Rice LLC, the law firm where Piontek is a member attorney.
Piontek commented that the action falls under the same criteria but he was not making the suggestion to remove the item. That could be perceived as a conflict of interest.
The council also approved removing the action to approve monthly payments to the Lewis Rice LLC.