It all comes down to dollars and cents. At the latest Star Valley council meeting, the town decided to leave its longtime hydrology firm over an $11,500 contract increase, give a $21,000 pay increase to its town manager and received a favorable update on its finances.
That’s the price difference between LFR’s quote and opposing firm, Tetra Tech, for well and rain gauge monitoring.
Last year, the town paid LFR $14,000 for well data services, which included monitoring 15 wells and completing quarterly summary reports of water level activity.
When water and sewer chairman Vern Leis asked LFR to draw up a new contract for 2009-2010, he asked for additional monitoring of two wells and several rain gauges spread throughout town. LFR submitted a new contract that included the services along with a steep price increase, an additional $9,500 that was not negotiable.
After receiving LFR’s quote, Leis asked other engineering firms for similar proposals. Tetra Tech was the first to respond with a $12,000 bid.
Leis said Tetra Tech’s services are a “like for like comparison.”
The only drawback, Tetra Tech would have to upload Star Valley’s well history for the past three years where LFR has the information on file.
Despite this, councilor Barbara Hartwell said she thought the town would get better service with with Tetra Tech.
Vice-Mayor Del Newland agreed.
“LFR has always been late for everything,” he said regarding past reports.
Leis defended LFR saying they always provided accurate, dependable services.
Councilor George Binney said he did not know Tetra Tech included hydrology services and was leery about using them without meeting with a hydrologist from the company prior to the start of the the contract. Leis assured Binney that Tetra Tech was well versed in all engineering areas considering they are the “third largest engineering firm in the country.”
The council unanimously approved swapping LFR with Tetra Tech.
Also at the meeting, Glenn Smith, financial adviser, provided an update on the town’s finances for the first four months of the fiscal year.
“Fiscally, you are doing very well,” he said. “The budget is sound.”
He pointed out while the rest of the state is suffering with massive deficits; Star Valley has managed to float above any budget concerns.
However, the town is dealing with decreased revenue from state shared sales tax and income tax, but the decrease is not enough to worry Smith or Town Manager Tim Grier — yet.
“The state budget is in bad shape and could affect us,” Grier said. “We need to proceed with informed caution.”
Grier and Smith said they could present a better picture of how the state’s budget will affect the town when more information is available in February. If needed, adjustments could be made to keep the town’s budget in line with revenue.
An area Grier and Smith are monitoring especially closely is photo enforcement. For the fiscal year, revenue from the cameras has come in well under budget.
In October, the town expected to bring in $174,000 but only saw $99,500.
Smith said he does not know why photo enforcement is down, but speculated it could be because fewer cars are traveling through the area, people are driving slower or they know the cameras are there.
Regardless, Smith warned the council that photo enforcement revenue could continue to tumble and be hundreds of thousands of dollars lower than budgeted by year’s end.
Following Smith’s update, the council went into executive session to discuss Grier’s employment contract.
Currently, Grier earns $75,000 a year for 30-hour workweeks. The council decided to up this to $96,000 a year.
This is Grier’s first raise since he was hired on as town manager a year and six months ago. Before becoming town manager and attorney, he was paid $125 an hour for legal consultation.