Quarterly Report: 2009, April - June (Q4), Unalakleet

Josephine Bahnke  
DCRA Regional Office:
Gov't Type:
Second Class City 
Agreement Date:
City of Unalakleet 
Assessment Status:
Assessment Date:
Exp Date:
Last Updated:
Community Sanitation Overview:
Water is derived from a well and an infiltration gallery at Powers Creek, and is treated and stored in a million-gallon steel tank. The water source is at risk because, for much of the way, the 28,000 foot water transmission line runs beside the ocean, and fall storms are eroding the land and may soon destroy the pipeline. The City hopes to build new houses in a future Foothills Subdivision, away from the ocean, and has qualified for VSW funding for an investigation to determine the feasibility of using groundwater as a water source for the future subdivision. A feasibility study for water and sewer improvements is complete. The study recommended re-designing the water transmission pipeline route inland to avoid fall storm erosion, making improvements to the sewage lagoon, and constructing sludge drying beds at the landfill. The City has qualified for VSW funding for design and construction of this work. 190 households are connected to the piped water and sewer system and have complete plumbing. Only two households haul water and use honeybuckets. Residents haul refuse to the baler facility for transportation to the landfill. Refuse collection is available for commercial customers. Matanuska Electric Association owns and operates the electrical system in unalakleet, through the Unalakleet Valley Electric Cooperative. 
RUBA Status & Activities This Qtr:
The City of Unalakleet meets all essential and sustainable indicators at this time. In partnership with Village Safe Water, the City has funding for three projects in Unalakleet. The Main Street sewer extension was completed in the summer of 2007. Projects for 2008 include sewage lagoon improvements and raw water transmission line realignment. Election assistance was provided this quarter to the City Clerk. 
RUBA Activities for the Coming Qtr:
At the request of the Council, Nome RUBA staff will provide on-going assistance and training to the City Clerk and Administrator on financial reporting and ordinance revisions. RUBA staff will closely monitor essential indicators as major water and sewer utility upgrades are being designed and constructed in partnership with Village Safe Water.
Essential Indicators:
26 of 26
Sustainable Indicators:
24 of 26
Total Score:
50 of 52


Essential Indicators
Answer Question
Yes All revenues and expenses for the utility are listed in the utility budget.
Yes The utility has adopted a balanced realistic budget.
Yes Monthly financial reports are prepared and submitted to the policy making board.
Yes The utility is current in paying all water/wastewater electric bills.
Yes The utility has on hand a year's adequate fuel supply or it has a financial plan to purchase an adequate supply.
Yes The utility is receiving revenues (user fees or other sources) sufficient to cover operating expenses.
Sustainable Indicators
Answer Question
Yes The utility is receiving revenues (user fees or other sources sufficient to cover operating expenses and Repair & Replacement (R) costs.
Yes YTD revenues are at a level equal to or above those budgeted.
Yes YTD expenditures are at a level equal to or below those budgeted.
Yes A monthly manager's report is prepared.
N/A Budget amendments are completed and adopted as necessary.
Finances Comments
The City of Unalakleet adopted their FY 08 budget ordinance on June 29th, 2007. The utility is receiving revenues to sufficiently cover operating costs, but it is advised that the City establish a reserves fund. This savings account would be established to cover the cost of short-term parts such as circulation and discharge pumps. RUBA staff can assist in calculating what monthly payments to the fund might be. This calculation would include what customer contributions are, so a rate increase would be necessary. At present, residents pay $63.00 a month for water and sewer service. RUBA staff recommends gradual rate increases not to exceed $5.00 a year over the next 2-3 years. Monthly financial and activity reports are prepared by the City Administrator and submitted to the City Council.

Accounting Systems

Essential Indicators
Answer Question
Yes The utility has adopted a collection policy and actively follows it.
Yes The utility bills customers on a regular basis.
Yes An accounts receivable system is in place which tracks customers and reports past due accounts and amounts.
Yes An accounts payable system is in place.
Yes The payroll system correctly calculates payroll and keeps records.
Yes A cash receipt system is in place that records incoming money and how it was spent.
Yes The utility has a cash disbursement system that records how money was spent.
Sustainable Indicators
Answer Question
Yes A chart of accounts is used that identifies categories in a reasonable, usable manner.
Yes Monthly bank reconciliations have been completed for all utility accounts.
Yes The utility has a purchasing system that requires approval prior to purchase, and the approval process compares proposed purchases to budgeted amounts.
Accounting Systems Comments
The City of Unalakleet uses QuickBooks Pro 2006 to perform accounting functions for the water/sewer utility. The City Clerk bills customers at the beginning of the month and they are payable by the 15th. Revenues and expenditures for water and sewer are now being tracked separately. In the past, each were co-mingled with other municipal accounts. Accounts payable, payroll, and cash disbursement systems are tracked on the computer. Cash receipts are tracked manually (NEBS pegboard) and on the computer.

Tax Problems

Essential Indicators
Answer Question
Yes The utility has a system to accurately calculate, track, and report payroll tax liabilities.
Yes The utility is current on filing tax reports.
Yes The utility is current on making tax deposits.
N/A If there are any past due tax liabilities or recorded tax liens, a lien release has been issued or a repayment agreement has been signed and repayments are current.
Tax Problems Comments
The City Clerk uses Quickbooks to calculate, track, and report payroll tax liabilities to IRS and State Department of Labor, Employment Security Division. According to a report on March 25, 2008, the City is current on filing reports and making tax deposits.

Personnel System

Essential Indicators
Answer Question
Yes The utility has a posted workers compensation insurance policy in effect.
Sustainable Indicators
Answer Question
Yes The utility has adopted and uses a Personnel Policy, which has been reviewed by an attorney, AML or Commerce for topics and language.
Yes The utility has adequate written job descriptions for all positions.
Yes The utility has adopted and follows a written personnel evaluation process that ties the job description to the evaluation.
Yes The utility has an adequate written hiring process.
Yes The utility has personnel folders on every employee that contain at least: I-9, Job Application and Letter of Acceptance.
Yes The utility has a probationary period for new hires that includes orientation, job training/oversight, and evaluations.
Yes The utility provides training opportunities to staff as needed and available.
Personnel System Comments
The City of Unalakleet has a workers' compensation insurance policy purchased through AML/JIA for Fiscal Year 2008. The personnel policy was last updated in 2002. Full time permanent employees receive a 3% pay raise on July 1st. New employees complete a 90-day probationary period. Once successfully completed, they qualify for benefits (PERS) and insurance. Probationary period for Police officers is 6 months.

Organizational Management

Essential Indicators
Answer Question
Yes The entity that owns the utility is known; the entity that will operate the utility is set.
Yes The policy making body is active in policy making of the utility.
Yes The policy making body enforces utility policy.
Yes The utility has an adequately trained manager.
Yes The utility has an adequately trained bookkeeper.
Yes The utility has an adequately trained operator or operators.
Yes The utility has adopted the necessary ordinances (or rules and regulations) necessary to give it the authority to operate.
Sustainable Indicators
Answer Question
Yes The utility has adopted an organizational chart that reflects the current structure.
Yes The policy making body meets as required.
Yes The utility complies with the open meeting act for all meetings.
Organizational Management Comments
The Unalakleet City Council is the policy making body for the water and sewer utility. The Administrator has worked part-time for the City for approximately seven years. The Utility Manager and operator is trained at Level 2- Water Distribution and Water Treatment and Level 1- Wastewater Collection and Wastewater Treatment. The City Clerk has completed Introduction to Quickbooks, sponsored by the RUBA program.

Operation of Utility

Essential Indicators
Answer Question
Yes The utility operator(s) are actively working towards necessary certification.
Yes The utility has a preventative maintenance plan developed for the existing sanitation facilities.
Sustainable Indicators
Answer Question
Yes The manager receives a monthly O&M report from the utility operator and routinely "spot checks" the facilities to see that the maintenance items are being completed.
No The utility has a safety manual and holds safety meetings.
Yes Utility facilities have not suffered any major problems/outages due to management issues that are unresolved.
Yes The utility is operating at the level of service that was proposed.
Yes The operator provides status reports to the manager on a routine basis.
Yes The utility has completed and distributed its "Consumer Confidence Report".
No The utility is not on the "Significant Non-Complier" (SNC) list.
Yes The utility maintains an inventory control list.
Yes The utility maintains a critical spare parts list.
Operation of Utility Comments
Utility Operators are actively working towards certification. The Utility Manager provides the City Council with monthly water, sewer and pumphouse reports that include fuel usage and supply at various locations, information on water quality and supply, a visual inspection checklist for the landfill, and baler facility statistics. Unalakleet City Water Supply is on the SNC list due to the system not having the hardware for individual filter monitoring. Everything else is in compliance. To be in compliance with Surface Water Treatment Rule and be removed from the SNC list, three continuous recording turbidimeters need to be purchased and installed. According to the Water Operator,the approximate cost for the equipment is about $5,000, not including installation. According to the City Administrator, the utility's biggest challenge is the cost of maintaining an aging water and sewer system. The cost of equipment and labor has been especially high the past few years due to needed maintenance and unexpected damage caused by flooding from fall storms.