Steubenville City Council on Tuesday approved a $70,000 contract for the state auditor's office to conduct a performance audit of the city's enterprise funds.
The decision came only after the legislation was amended to include language requiring the auditors to examine delinquent water accounts pulled from a collection agency and an examination of decisions issued by the city's utilities delinquency review board.
Second Ward Councilman Mike Johnson said he would vote against the measure unless the addendum was included in the ordinance. Fourth Ward Councilwoman Angela Suggs cast the lone no vote against the performance audit, saying the city is undergoing an annual $55,000 audit and she prefers to wait for that audit report to be issued before stating a separate audit.
"I'm going to hold my colleagues on council to implementing the recommendations from the performance audit," Suggs said.
According to Jim Pyers, the senior performance project manager for the state auditor, the auditors will look at every policy and procedure regarding water bill collection.
"We are going to look at everything from the water at the filtration plant until it comes out at the end into the river. he said. "We will look at staffing and adequate compensation and what people are accomplishing on their jobs. We will look at staffing tiers and reasonable best practices. We will start the field work first and we will be updating the administration and council throughout the 10-month process. And finally we will make recommendations. If we find something that needs immediate attention we will notify you."
Johnson lobbied in favor of two addendums to the ordinance that will require all accounts pulled from capital recovery to determine the reasons the accounts were pulled, as well as determine if the money associated with those accounts was collected.
Sixth Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna asked Pyers to also examine money spent on the new city hall building and the new water filtration plant on University Boulevard.
"I want to make sure the expenditures on those projects were legally authorized," Villamagna said.
Council also continued discussions on a proposal to put water accounts in property owners names instead of allowing rental tenants to have the account in their name.
"We have had a law since 2001 that allowed the city to put the water accounts in the property owner's name but we have never enforced that law," Johnson said.
The proposal to make landlords responsible for tenants' water bills met opposition from several of the landlords at Tuesday night's marathon meeting, including Jerome Hagerty, who said the city, "is trying to put the burden on small businesses. It is a bad precedent when you attack a small business person."