The vote came just three months after the board cut general manager Paul Sensibaugh’s spending authority from $100,000 to $10,000, citing a need for financial responsibility. Emotions ran high during the discussion, which lasted nearly an hour.
“I guess some of the board members don’t want to spend the time to look at all these contracts,” said director Andy Su, who voted no, along with director Jim Lamb. “I’m surprised by the short-term memory. I remember that meeting and all the residents that came up and told us that they wanted us to look at these contracts and reduce the spending limit.”
Su later apologized to the board for comments that may have seemed a bit harsh.
Board president Eric Payne said he brought this issue up as an action item for Wednesday’s meeting because he felt that reviewing all contracts over $10,000 took up too much time. Payne said the board should be focused on bettering the community as a whole instead of reviewing individual contracts that may be out of directors’ expertise.
Payne cited the July board meeting — the first of the fiscal year — where 22 contracts were awarded. On Wednesday, two contracts were awarded — one for $50,000 for street light maintenance and one for $25,000 for traffic signal maintenance, both to Republic ITS.
“We had a total of 27 questions over the entire meeting, a majority of those were before we even hit the contracts,” Payne said. “Clearly, in terms of due diligence, that’s vague at best. … I think our job up here as board of directors is not predominantly oversight and management, but is to help build a strong community.”
Director Matt Balzarini and vice president Bernice King Tingle voted with Payne, feeling they could trust Sensibaugh and his staff to make decisions on such contracts. Balzarini called the public reviewing of all those contracts, “a waste of time.”
“I’d like to see the contracts, but I don’t see the need of consistently coming and voting for anything that was over the limit of $10,000,” Tingle said. “I do feel that it does slow the cog and the wheel.”
Lamb felt that board members should be knowledgeable about where the taxpayers’ money is going by reviewing the contracts, something he said is the public’s expectation.
The new spending limit was passed with a 3-2 vote, which also included the new policy that contracts will be posted on the district’s Web site for the public to view within a week of being discussed at meetings.
Directors can also ask Sensibaugh to see any contract.
“I don’t know that magic level,” Sensibaugh said. “It worked very well in the past with the ordinance we had. The $10,000, in our type of business, is unworkable. But we work with whatever the board says.”
Also at the meeting:
— Lammersville Elementary School District superintendent Dale Hansen spoke to the board about the successful split from Tracy Unified School District. Tracy Unified officials voted unanimously in a Tuesday meeting in favor of allowing Mountain House to build its own high school.
“Right now, we see five buses pulling out of this community with high school students, it would be nice to keep them right here,” said Hansen, who shared preliminary designs of the high school with the board.
Hansen said Tracy Unified’s OK was the biggest hurdle his district faced. He will submit this plan to the San Joaquin County Office of Education on August 19. If they approve, Lammersville’s independence is official.
Lammersville is targeting the 2014-15 school year to open its high school, Hansen said.
— The board OK’d, by a 4-1 vote, to maintain the status quo on flashing street lights. To save $29,000 this fiscal year, the district set six of Mountain House’s nine traffic lights to flashing red. Three major intersections, such as Mountain House Parkway and Grant Line Road, are still fully operational. Su, who wanted to look into turning all lights back to normal, voted no.
— In response to questions from the public about district employees’ salaries, the board unanimously agreed to post position, salary and benefit information on the district Web site. This information will be updated at the start of each fiscal year, July 1.
If people want up-to-date salary information, a Freedom of Information Act form can be submitted to the district office.
Contact Mountain House Press reporter Justin Lafferty at 830-4269 or firstname.lastname@example.org.