Living Here

Utah Blaine. Working under the guise of Blaine Oborn, mild-mannered city administrator brings out his Colt .45 and fires opening rounds.
The Lake Geneva Utility Commission has been running amok for many years, responsible to nobody and nothing, except itself. Those days are about to end, if Utah Blaine can get the support he should quietly plainly, and obviously have. Here is the first broadside he presented to the city for making the necessary changes. Utah Blaine is earning every bit of his ‘gunfighter’ designation.


From: Blaine Oborn, City Administrator

Subject: Discussion/Recommendation on Utility Ordinance changes and corresponding organization (getting some kind of Utility Commission control).

Minutes of the Finance, License & Regulation (FLR) Committee of October 26, 2015: City Administrator Oborn stated the main focus will be on procedural changes, not program or physical changes. As an alternative to the Utility Commission becoming a committee, the Commission will be addressing the procedural items to align themselves more closely to the City. He went over 3 options listed in the packet and noted state statute does give them the option to mandate the City as the fiscal agent, which will reduce their independence. Mr. Kordus stated there has been a lot of discussion on this and there is a lot to go through yet.

“I held off on bringing the issue back to the FLR/City Council to allow the Utility Commission to make reform changes and to recommend utility ordinance changes.

At the October 26, 2015 FLR meeting I recommended at least some changes so the Utility Commission can become closer aligned with the City. The following are the recommended changes with a status update:

1) Implementation of City Employee Handbook. The Utility Commission has adopted an employee handbook similar to the City’s.

2) Implement Wage Study. The Utility Commission has implemented the wage grades and provided pay changes similar to the City.

3) Create Budget for utility funds. The Utilities now have budgets.

4) Implement one audit in 2016. The City’s auditor is scheduled to provide the 2016 audit in 2017.

5) Eliminate Utility Commission dinner. The dinner was cancelled.

6) Eliminated Utility Commission pay. The Utility Commission passed a motion eliminating salaries for Utility Commission members.

7) Allow City Administrator to become involved in Utility Commission operation through ordinance change. The Utility Commissions recommendation is attached along with other recommended changes.

8) Allow City to reimburse Utilities 34% for Director of Public Works services. The City has paid for 33% of the Director of Public Works salary.

9) Refrain from expenditures outside of water and sewer areas without City Council approval. The Utility Commission has passed a resolution to this affect.


I have attached the Utility Commissions recommended ordinance changes as Option 1. The proposal places the City Administrator on the Commission and eliminates one of the Aldermen seats on the Commission. This is not my recommendation, but a step in the right direction.

Other changes proposed by the Utility Commission are:

1) Eliminates requiring meeting at City Hall.

2) Updates to new Wisconsin Public Service Commission Rules.

3) Eliminates redundant Section 78-51 on Commission duties.

4) For the Water Ordinance it updates from Water Commission to Utility Commission.

5) Updates the Sewer Ordinance from City to Utility Commission.

6) Changes Sec. 78-358 so that the City’s Engineer reviews designs of new subdivisions.

7) Allow the Commission to be the decision maker for extending water and sewer Outside City limits.

I have also presented my recommended Utility Ordinance changes as Option 2.

This option eliminates the independent Utility Commission and provides for a Utility Committee to provide oversight and make recommendations to the City Council. Some of the additional changes are:

1) Implementation of City Employee Handbook. Ensures parity within the City.

2) Implementation of City’s procurement and accounts payable procedures. The Utility currently manages its own finances with little oversight. One accounting system eliminates the City writing checks between departments and simplifies coordination.

3) Payroll/Payable staff to become under the direction of the Comptroller. More consistency and better accountability. Also allows for sharing of staff between Departments.

4) Update Organization with Administrator supervising the Director of Public Works & Utility. Provides for more accountability and transparency.

5) Implement wage study in conjunction with the rest of the City. The Utility Commission has moved toward parity under pressure but could revert back to past practices at anytime. Consolidation will ensure parity between departments.

6) Create Budget for utility funds and integrate into City annual budget process.

7) Implement one City audit in 2016. Planned for under either option assuming Commission does not revert from stated plan.

8) Commission dinner eliminated as it is not allowed under City policies.

9) Commission/Committee pay eliminated as no pay is in place in the City for Boards/Commissions/Committees.

10) Accounting System consolidation would likely take place in 1 to 3 years when the City Hall accounting system is anticipated to be upgraded.

11) Eliminate inconclusive supervision of the Director of Public Works and Utility.

The City Council could also do an in between consolidation of keeping the Utility Commission by putting the Finance under the City. This would address some of the issues.

The FLR and City Council can determine what direction to move in and direct the City Attorney to review the recommended changes. Also, the Utility Commission is postponing succession planning with the pending retirements of the Director of Public Works & Utility and Water Superintendent giving the City Council a chance to first consider possible organization changes and input on succession planning

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