Council to vote on new credit card policy

Published 8:11 am Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Albert Lea City Council on Monday is slated to vote on a new credit card purchasing policy incorporating suggestions made by the state auditor last year after former City Manager Jim Norman was found to have used his city-issued credit card for personal use.

Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said the State Auditor’s Office has reviewed a draft of the policy and provided no additional comments.

The policy provides improved internal and accountability controls for uses of the credit card.

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The city previously had travel expenses guidelines for when city employees go on trips that outlined what expenses would and would not be reimbursable.

The new policy outlines who can use the credit cards, namely city department heads under the approval of the city manager, and that each cardholder must sign an agreement accepting terms of the use of the card.

The policy states each card will include a dollar limitation on the card, a dollar limitation per transaction, as well as a dollar limitation for the total of all charges made during each month.

Specific purchases that can be made with the card include office supplies, operating supplies and services, repair and maintenance, gasoline for a city vehicle, training and instruction, airfare, hotel, small equipment and tools, or other necessary purchases for the city, it states.

“The purchasing card must never be used to purchase items for personal use or for non-city purposes, even if the cardholder intends to reimburse the city,” according to the policy. The purchasing card shall not be used to create a new form of debt for the city of Albert Lea.

Some of the inappropriate charges it includes are items for personal use, items for non-city purposes, meals for individuals (including the cardholder), cash or cash advances, alcoholic beverages, relocation expenses, entertainment/recreation, drugs or pharmaceutical products and refunds or revenue.

It also cannot be used for capital equipment over $5,000 unless an exception is made by the city manager or for fixed assets over $5,000, unless previously approved.

Likewise, the card cannot be used for consulting or professional services or for any service that requires a contract.

A monthly statement of all transactions will be mailed to each cardholder.

The policy states all transactions must be recorded on a transaction log each month and signed to verify the transactions. Original receipts must be attached.

“In no cases may the individual make payment to the credit card company,” it continues.

The policy states the city manager will review all cardholder statements, and a designated member of the City Council will review city manager statements.

In addition, card records are subject to audit without notification to the cardholder.

Lastly, the policy notes that a cardholder who makes an unauthorized purchase with the card will be subject to revocation of the card and disciplinary action.

That could include restitution to the city for unauthorized purchases, possible card cancellation, termination of employment and criminal prosecution, as well as reimbursement of the unauthorized use.

Employees are encouraged to check with the finance director or city manager if they have any questions about the correctness of a charge.

In other action, the council will:

• Vote whether to accept the city manager’s appointment of Police Chief Dwaine Winkels as interim fire chief.

• Vote whether to accept bids and award the contract for the Stevens Street sewer project.

The project includes reconstructing the sanitary sewer along Stevens Street from Morningside Avenue east to the southeast corner of the intersection of Prospsect Avenue and Stevens Street.

Six bids have been received for the project with the low bid coming from Arthur Inc. of Owatonna for about $197,000.

The engineer’s estimate was about $181,000.

• Vote whether to accept bids and award the contract for a biosolids removal project.

The project includes removing about $4 million gallons of biosolids per year for a three-year period.

Three bids were submitted with the low bid coming from United Liquid Waste Recycling Inc. of Fennimore, Wis., for about $235,000.

The engineer’s estimate was $264,000.

• Vote whether to acquire the lot at 110 Lake Ave. for $1 through a tax forfeiture sale. The lot has about $13,000 in assessments against the property.

If the city acquires the lot, the city would not recoup these assessments.

• Approve combining two lots in the Habben First Addition, for the purpose of constructing a tire warehouse and vehicle repair building.

• Hear an overview of the city’s 2010 audited financial statements from the city’s auditors, LarsonAllen LLP.

• Vote whether to replace an outdoor warning siren near City Arena that is no longer working and that appears to have been hit by lightning.

Costs are estimated at about $13,000 for the new siren and other equipment, about $7,000 for mounting and wiring and about $1,500 to remove the old siren, along with three other obsolete sirens at other places in the city.

The project has not been budgeted for, but staff are recommending the project cost come from unallocated police and fire pension interest income.

• Vote whether to call a public hearing for two sets of miscellaneous assessments. The first involves assessments regarding refusing removal, demolition costs, delinquent water and sewer, mowing and snow removal.

The second set involves assessments from sanitary sewer inspections, delinquent water and sewer.

• Vote whether to approve an agreement between the city and Waldorf College, allowing Waldorf to use City Arena for their hockey program for the 2011-12 season.

The agreement includes Waldorf paying $105 an hour for ice rental for practice and $400 per game played. Practices are anticipated to be from 9 to 11 p.m.

The college will have exclusive use of the locker room formerly used by the Albert Lea Thunder.

• Present Police Chief Dwaine Winkels with a lifesaving award for his service to a city employee on June 21.