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W. Jordan to track bills for work on sewer fund

WEST JORDAN -- The size of the financial bite taken out of West Jordan's water and sewer fund each year by the city administration is scheduled for a closer examination over the next year.

The council has directed City Manager Dan Dahlgren to conduct a 12-month audit of the amounts of time, materials and supplies his administrative staff spends working on water and sewer business.At issue is the amount of money the water and sewer enterprise fund is charged each year for administrative services, which has become something of a sore point among some residents and council members.

The council rejected an alternative plan by Dahlgren that would have let employees go back and estimate the time spent working on each of the city's 12 funds over the past year.

Instead, workers now will be asked to write down once a day the amount of time and resources actually spent providing services to the water and sewer fund.

And, at the request of Councilwoman Margaret Grochocki, a similar time and resources audit will be done on chargebacks to the Western Stampede Fund.

In fiscal 1999, chargebacks to the water and sewer fund totaled more than $1.39 million.

The city manager's office alone billed the enterprise $79,295 for administrative services. That chargeback was calculated by taking one-fourth of the city management department's budget of $317,182 for the entire year.

But since the size of that assessment was revealed last year, residents and some council members have wondered publicly whether the city manager and his assistant really spend one-fourth of their time and resources on water and sewer division matters.

The chargeback question was raised again June 1 by West Jordan resident Norm Riggs during the citizen comments portion of City Council meeting.

Riggs and his Citizens for Integrity in Government committee have been highly critical of chargebacks to the water and sewer fund, suggesting city officials may be using the fund for a municipal "cash cow."

At that time, the council directed Dahlgren to come up with a proposal for tracking the work of the city manager's office to see if the 25 percent chargeback is justified.

But the city manager has resisted having management workers make a daily log, contending it is too onerous a burden and would take too much employee time.

"It just doesn't justify the ends," he told the council Tuesday night.

Several council members disagreed, including David Newton, who said he wants "to get something more accurate than a guess."

Newton, a successful local businessmen, said he has had employees track time over the years and found it only "took two to three minutes a day" while providing him with some invaluable management information.

Mayor Donna Evans said she has been asked by several members of the city's water conservation committee how the city can justify the $1.4 million in chargebacks against the water and sewer fund.

"I can't," she said. "There is no basis for justifying it."

If the audit shows the charges aren't justified, Evan suggested, the council could minimize the impact of a reallocation on the budget by simply capping chargebacks at the present level "until our growth catches up."

While Grochocki agreed on the need for tracking, she said she would prefer doing the audit for only one month each quarter to make sure the study accounts for seasonally generated work.

But Councilman Jay Bowcutt said he would rather see tracking over the entire 12 months to "justify the money we're taking out as an administrative fee."