Quarterly Report: 2012, January - March (Q3), McGrath

Michele Aranguiz  
DCRA Regional Office:
Gov't Type:
Second Class City 
Agreement Date:
City of McGrath 
Assessment Status:
Assessment Date:
Exp Date:
Last Updated:
Community Sanitation Overview:
McGrath operates a piped water system that serves nearly all 178 households; a few homes have individual wells or haul water. The FAA operates its own water system. The majority of residents use individual septic tanks; a limited city wastewater system serves approximately 34 homes. Funds have been requested to expand the piped wastewater system to the 144 houses and businesses currently using septic tanks. McGrath is poised to begin substantial upgrades of its water treatment plant. Design and engineering phases of this project are complete. Erosion control is a critical issue, as the water treatment facility is located next to the river. The cost of moving the facility would triple the costs of the upgrade. The city has applied for funding to complete their erosion control project, ensuring the integrity of the water treatment facility. 
RUBA Status & Activities This Qtr:
McGrath's RUBA assessment is current. City Clerk Crystal Holmberg attended a RUBA Organizational Management for Rural Utilities training last quarter; Mcgrath City Administrator Natalie Baumgartner attended the RUBA Personnel Management for Rural Utilities training in March 2012. Anchorage RUBA staff traveled to McGrath on February 21-23, 2012, to provide onsite support in updating the city utility ordinance and customer agreements. RUBA staff reviewed the current utility ordinance and customer agreements with McGrath city staff. McGrath's utility ordinance included many provisions - especially in sections dealing with collections policy and disconnection procedure - which do not correspond to actual local circumstances. A lack of clarity about charging base water rates whether or not a customer temporarily disconnects from service, and confusion about property owner liability for unpaid service bills from tenants were creating conflict within the community. RUBA staff made recommendations to bring the ordinance and customer agreements into alignment with the practical needs of the utility. While in McGrath, RUBA staff had the opportunity to tour the water treatment facility and meet with the water utility manager and operator. McGrath's water treatment facility is organized, clean and well-cared for.  
RUBA Activities for the Coming Qtr:
RUBA staff will continue to work with McGrath city staff as adjustments to the utility ordinance are drafted and developed. McGrath City Administrator Natalie Baumgartner is registered to attend the RUBA Planning Management for Rural Utilities training, to be held in Anchorage April 23-27, 2012.
Essential Indicators:
25 of 27
Sustainable Indicators:
27 of 27
Total Score:
52 of 54


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.
Yes Budget amendments are completed and adopted as necessary.
Finances Comments
This quarter, RUBA staff received updated financial reports which had been presented to the city council. The community is fully on track with their FY 12 projected budget. This community has very stable employees and a strong and involved city council. The water utility in McGrath has operated in the black - without supplementation from other funding sources - through FY 10 and FY 11. The FY 12 budget is realistic, and will also likely generate revenue through the water utility. McGrath operates on a well designed rate formula, in which all customers pay a base rate for water, with additional usage charged. The water utility expenses are comprehensive, and include categories for repair and maintenance. Electricity and fuel comprise substantial budget categories, but are adequately funded through water revenue. Sewer, landfill, and washeteria budgets reflect expense categories which exceed income. This is compensated through profit from the water utility and general city monies. The city of McGrath operates overall with a surplus, which is held in cash and investment accounts.

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 collection policy is in Title 13 of the McGrath Code of Ordinances. The city utilizes colored paper for delinquent customer notices to remind them of the overdue bill and also a colored door hanger notice of disconnect. McGrath utilizes QuickBooks for tracking all financial transactions of the utility and other city finances are in separate classes within QuickBooks. McGrath has utilized the services of the RUBA contracted QuickBooks consultant. A chart of accounts was also generated from QuickBooks for the McGrath and is able to track the utility revenue and expenditure transactions. Monthly bank reconciliations are made with the check register from QuickBooks and bank statements by the city administrator. Purchases for the utility are discussed by the administrator and program lead to confirm if the purchase is necessary and that funds are available in the budget. Decisions made for purchases outside of budgetary line items are determined by the level of necessity and availability of the general funds. Although discussions are done with the mayor, the mayor has stated that this is not necessary. Emergency purchases are made on the spot and utilize the city's general fund. Past emergency utility purchases include a replacement heat exchanger and a wastewater tank.

Tax Problems

Essential Indicators
Answer Question
Yes The utility has a system to accurately calculate, track, and report payroll tax liabilities.
No The utility is current on filing tax reports.
No The utility is current on making tax deposits.
Yes 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
A signed federal tax information authorizing document has been received this quarter. Initially, an older authorization with a prior date was signed; a corrected version has just been received. Updated tax information will be integrated into this on-line report as it is received. McGrath has been current on tax deposits and reports in the past, and it is anticipated that these categories will be converted to 'yesses,'

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
McGrath has an current workers compensation policy through AMLJIA, effective to June 2012. They are up to date with payment, and are carrying a positive balance. McGrath has an employee handbook that has a hiring and evaluation process, reference to personnel folders, a 90-day probationary period for all new hires and promotions or transfers and other important information for a newly hired or rehired city employee. The city encourages employee training for city employees.

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
McGrath owns the utility and has an ordinance code 13.04.010 which addresses service provided standards for the water utility and clearly states what and how services are provided. The McGrath city council members are active in policy making for the utility and enforces those polices. The city administrator acts as the utility manager, the utility foreman reports to the city administrator. The city administrator has over six years experience with the City of McGrath. The administrator has been awarded the 2005 AWWMA System Manager of the Year and has been recognized by Tanana Chiefs Council for outstanding dedication to the McGrath Water System. The utility foreman has three plus years of experience and has been with the city for the last year. There are two water operators employed by the city. One operator has certification in Water Treatment 1 and Water Distribution 1 due to expire December 31, 2012. The other operator has certification in Water Distribution Provisional and Water Treatment 1 due to expire on December 31, 2012 and has met the required continuing education units. The second operator was a water operator for McGrath, but left the community then returned after allowing the water certification to lapse. He is classified as an Operator In Training (OIT) for the City of McGrath. The bookkeeper has been at the position for over two years and is a certified municipal clerk with the Alaska Association of Municipal Clerks and also has clerks training from the Alaska Municipal League (AML).

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.
Yes 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".
Yes 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
The City of McGrath has provided training funds within the utility budgets and actively ensures employee participation in training opportunities provided by outside agencies. Administrator Natalie Baumgartner attended RUBA's recent Personnel Management for Rural Utilities workshop, March 19-23, 2012. She was an active participant in the training, and returned to McGrath with plans to update aspects of the McGrath employee handbook. A monthly preventative maintenance check list is generated for the water utility. The check list includes maintenance for the pumps, alarm battery backup system, exercising of unused valves, clean the chlorination injection point, chlorination vat of sentiment every six months and other maintenance of the utility equipment and facility. AMLJIA has provided the water utility with a safety check list and it is available in the utility and administrator's office. This is used as a guide for safety meetings. There have been no major problems or outages to date with the current utiltiy employees. The operators and foreman report to the administrator or directly the council when the administrator deems it is appropriate. The foreman or operator reports to the council when clarity is needed on specific information regarding the utility plant. Routine operations are reported to the administrator and then forwarded to the council at a council meeting. The City of McGrath has a current distributed CCR and a copy is on file at the utility. The City of McGrath is not on the current SNC list. The utility has an inventory control list and critical spare parts list and copies were provided.