City Council holds January meeting to discuss lawsuit

by Charles Gerian

The Blackwell City Council met Thursday, January 17 with newly-hired City Manager Janet Smith to discuss a lawsuit against a large Oklahoma-based construction contractor.

The City Council convened in executive session near the end of Thursday’s meeting to discuss, according to the meeting agenda, the city’s pending legal case against Atlas Construction. Atlas is the construction firm responsible for building the Blackwell Event Center that city leaders hurriedly opened after months of construction before the Kay County Free Fair in 2017.

After returning to the open portion of the meeting, the Council announced that city staff and Council members would be inspecting work performed by Atlas and relaying their finding to the city’s attorneys.

No further information was available as of press time.

In other news at the meeting, Council members adopted a resolution that would bring the pocket park on Main Street under the city’s control. The organization that established and maintained the park, the Hometown Improvement Project, has disbanded, leaving it up to the city to maintain the park.

The park was built from the shell of an apartment that burned down over a decade ago. It is located at 206 North Main Street.

The Council then heard the treasurer’s report from City Treasurer Meredith Meachem-Wilson. With a laugh, Wilson told Council members that the city “[has] money.”

Wilson stated that the city had $8 million in total cash for the month of December. However, she added that half of that money is earmarked for specific purposes.

“We're up this month [on total cash],” Wilson said. “Six months into the [fiscal] year, we're up almost 4 percent.”

Wilson said that the city still had half of its general budget funds left for the fiscal year. She added that this was “right where Blackwell should be” halfway into the fiscal year

The Council then heard the findings of the city’s financial audit for the fiscal year ending in 2018. The report on the audit’s findings was scheduled to be presented at an earlier meeting, but had been postponed due to weather concerns.

The auditing agency reported that “nothing out of the ordinary was found,” stating that the city had “good bookkeeping practices and staff members” overseeing the city’s financial workings. Council members approved the report.

Also, Kevin Law, a representative of the city’s phone service provider, spoke to the Council in regard to the city’s phone systems. He said that updating the city’s phone lines with a new fiber-based structure would allow city departments to have better phone service. In 2018, it was reported that the city’s phone service provider, Nobel Systems, LLC, of Norman, had placed the city’s digital phone receivers near ground-level, causing widespread outages, leaving city departments without a reliable phone system. No action was taken on the proposal.

Traci Hanebrink, the city’s human resources and payroll director, spoke to the Council about the MaxProtect Specialty Assistance Pharmacy Program. This program, Hanebrink said, would cost the city nothing to adopt and would save the city money. The organization’s mission statement reads: “MaxCare is an Oklahoma-based PBM that has been providing exceptional service since 1985. As a subsidiary of PPOk, one of the nation’s premier organizations of independent pharmacies, we know the ins and outs of the pharmaceutical industry, so you don't have to. We work with clients to create a customized benefits plan that works for them, all while being truly transparent and restoring a new ethical standard to our industry. Our main focus is to reduce the overall drug spend by promoting the use of generic drugs, managing factors that increase cost, and most importantly, educating our members to make the best possible decisions.”

Council members voted to adopt the program.