After a lengthy closed-door discussion, the Star Valley Town Council Sept. 13 instructed town officials to continue negotiations for the Payson Water Company in Star Valley.
Town Manager/Attorney Tim Grier has been in negotiations with water company owner Robert Hardcastle for the sale of the system that currently delivers water to some 300 customers.
While only a small percentage of the town receives water from Brooke Utilities, the sale of the system would give Star Valley water rights and make it a “purveyor,” a title it needs to go after a share of Blue Ridge pipeline water.
Water rights would also mean the town could pump water from the wells it owns and supply it to residents in the event of a shortage or emergency.
The town tried to buy the system several years ago, but ultimately walked away due to cost.
It is unknown how much Hardcastle wants for the system or how close the town is to striking a deal. The council offered no other comment on the sale beyond instructions to continue negotiations.
In other council news, the council held a first reading for an ordinance that prohibits councilors from serving on town commissions or boards.
This directly affects Councilors Vern Leis and George Binney who head up the Water and Sewer Commission and Floodwater Task Force respectively. At an earlier meeting, Leis strongly opposed the ordinance due to his work with the sewer commission, but gave no objection at the Sept. 13 meeting.
The proposed ordinance also lowers the size of town boards to five members minimum, a welcome change for some commissions that have struggled to find enough members.
Dennis Osuch of LarsonAllen LLP gave a report on the town’s 2010 audit, which it passed with only a few minor hiccups.
LarsonAllen found several weaknesses and one significant deficiency during the audit. Most of the issues are typical to small towns, Osuch said.
“These findings are really being reported to you as a council so you are aware of what are the possibilities of errors that could occur,” he said.
The first issue surrounds financial statements, which should be prepared and received by the town. Most governments, especially small towns, however, don’t prepare their own statements, relying on the auditing agency.
“If we come in and do an audit as well as compile the financial statements, there is the possibility that a misstatement could occur because we are compiling the financial statements rather than management,” he said.
Binney said he didn’t agree with this logic and felt an outside agency would be better able to catch mistakes.
But Osuch said because management is closer to the information, it has a greater chance of catching a mistake.
The second concern dealt with the cash reconciling system accurately reflecting the total cash balance, which has since been corrected.
Third was segregation of duties, another problem for small towns, Osuch said.
The final weakness dealt with journal entry access with the only major deficiency surrounding payroll access. These are just concerns with no wrongdoing implied, he said.
“Most of these findings are inherent with small towns, it is just a matter of managing them.”