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Orchard City receives positive audit report

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Orchard City trustees during a special meeting on July 22 heard a positive report from an audit of its finances for the year ending 2014.

As the town's auditor had done previously reporting to another Surface Creek Valley town, Cedaredge, on its financial report for 2014, auditor Pete Blair pronounced Orchard City "better off financially in 2014 than you were in 2013."

In a financial note to the audit, he reported that the town holds about $1.6 million in cash (savings accounts and money market funds), and another $3.4 million in CDs, cash on hand, and monies deposited with the county treasurer's office.

The town holds enough cash or cash equivalent assets to fund general operations for six years, the auditor reported. By comparison, other similar towns are doing good to have cash on hand to cover at most a year of general fund operations. Orchard City has almost $2.4 million in its general fund balance.

The town's routine financial operations showed that the governmental funds (including the general fund and roads fund) "increased significantly during 2014."

The one exception that Blair noted was the town's park fund. Orchard City's free-use town park does not generate revenue to cover maintenance and operation expenses, a fact the town trustees were well aware of when they embarked on their grants-funded improvements program for park facilities about a decade ago.

Orchard City Town Park is used by the public primarily for organized youth sports activities that the town derives limited income from. It is also used for family gatherings, and for individual or small group recreation like hiking the trail, small cookouts or children's playground use.

The park is not operated as a town "business enterprise," nor are other free municipal parks operated by area towns. Other than the landscaping at town hall, Orchard City Town Park is the only park the trustees maintain, so it has its own budget fund, making costs a simple matter to track. Blair said the town park brings in around $11,000 per year and costs around $50,000 to maintain and operate. With Orchard City's major improvements projects for the park completed, maintenance costs have been brought down from a high of around $80,000 annually several years ago.

In the operating revenues section of the audit, it showed that operations costs for the town were well in line with budget projections, indicating that the town's budget process is working well.

In the operating expenses category, the audit report showed that all departments "are within budget (limits) or a lot less," Blair said.Fund balances for governmental operations have increased significantly, he added.

Following the audit report, trustees voted to accept it as presented.

In a second item on the July 22 special meeting agenda, Mayor Don Suppes noted that Tom Huerkamp, representing Delta County Economic Development, had asked to meet with trustees to discuss an issue known as Senate Bill 152.

Senate Bill 152 is a state law that prevents local governments from going into the Internet service provider (ISP) business -- an enterprise also sometimes referred to as "broadband." Delta County Economic Development is backing an effort for faster Internet access.

There is a provision in SB-152 that allows local governments to "opt-out" of the prohibition by a popular vote. Suppes explained that Huerkamp wanted to discuss with trustees the possibility of having an "opt-out" vote for Orchard City on this Nov. 3 election ballot. By opting out, voters would be giving Orchard City town officials a green light to enter the ISP business with no caveats or restrictions.

Orchard City has never indicated any desire to go into the ISP business. Suppes expressed reservations about the idea, saying it could end up making the town responsible for providing broadband service to its residents under a regional plan being proposed.

Two other local governments -- Delta County and Cedaredge -- without any prior indication of interest for entering the ISP business or public discussion of the idea are considering opt-out votes on their ballots this November.

The Orchard City discussion on SB-152 scheduled for the town trustees' July 22 meeting did not take place. That is because no one other than trustees appeared for the discussion, Suppes explained. The reason given was that a legal counsel for one of the other local governments in the county had determined that a November election on the SB-152 question could not take place under state statute.

Later in the week, that legal opinion was reversed.

The Orchard City Trustees took no action related to the SB-152 issue.

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