Quarterly Report: 2013, January - March (Q3), Gulkana

Jedediah Smith  
DCRA Regional Office:
Gov't Type:
Federally Recognized Tribe 
Agreement Date:
Gulkana Village 
Assessment Status:
Assessment Date:
Exp Date:
Last Updated:
Community Sanitation Overview:
Water is derived from a well, treated and stored in a 100,000 gallon tank. A piped water and wastewater system serves most homes. A community wastewater tank treats wastewater. A number of residences also use individual wells and wastewater tanks. Construction of a new treatment plant (to address high DBPs, lead and copper) was approved on January 20, 2012. Construction of the new plant is begun. A master plan has been completed to examine connection of all homes to a new system. Permafrost and high water tables are problematic in this region.  
RUBA Status & Activities This Qtr:
The new water plant is still under construction. The new Gulkana water plant is on target to start up later this winter.  
RUBA Activities for the Coming Qtr:
RUBA staff will assist this community as requested. RUBA staff will continue to offer continuing training opportunities to village staff.
Essential Indicators:
11 of 13
Sustainable Indicators:
15 of 19
Total Score:
26 of 32


Essential Indicators
Answer Question
N/A All revenues and expenses for the utility are listed in the utility budget.
N/A The utility has adopted a balanced realistic budget.
N/A Monthly financial reports are prepared and submitted to the policy making board.
N/A The utility is current in paying all water/wastewater electric bills.
N/A The utility has on hand a year's adequate fuel supply or it has a financial plan to purchase an adequate supply.
N/A The utility is receiving revenues (user fees or other sources) sufficient to cover operating expenses.
Sustainable Indicators
Answer Question
N/A The utility is receiving revenues (user fees or other sources sufficient to cover operating expenses and Repair & Replacement (R) costs.
N/A YTD revenues are at a level equal to or above those budgeted.
N/A YTD expenditures are at a level equal to or below those budgeted.
N/A A monthly manager's report is prepared.
N/A Budget amendments are completed and adopted as necessary.
Finances Comments
The Gulkana Village Council has an experienced bookkeeper who has held the position for many years. The tribal council is the governing body of the community and has regular monthly meetings. The FY12 budget was reviewed and adopted by the council. The budget separates utility enterprises from the general budget, allowing a clear financial picture of the utility service the village provides. Water utility rates do not cover operating expenses; the community subsidizes the water and wastewater utility with allocated Community Revenue Sharing and Water Resource Program funds. Gulkana does have a Repair and Replacement account established for its water utility that is sufficient to cover repairs and parts replacement. At each meeting, tribal council members are provided with a monthly financial statement. Minutes from three recent council meeting confirm that financial reports are given at every meeting, and that utility management decisions are discussed by the council. For the ease of council members, it is helpful to combine the monthly financial report and the annual budget into a single report (budget vs. actual); QuickBooks has the capacity to generate this format. As direct utility revenue is not sufficient to cover utility expenses and the tribe has chosen to supplement the utility budget from other revenue sources, this decision is reflected in budget line items which clearly define the source of those supporting revenues. With the new water treatment plant coming on line after this construction season, costs of supplying water need to be recalculated. Fuel is readily available, with purchases month-to-month or as needed. Electricity is provided by Copper Valley Electric Association, and the community is current with payment. Increasing fuel costs may require that water utility rates be adjusted to reflect the actual costs of electricity and fuel for the water treatment facility.

Accounting Systems

Essential Indicators
Answer Question
No The utility has adopted a collection policy and actively follows it.
N/A The utility bills customers on a regular basis.
N/A An accounts receivable system is in place which tracks customers and reports past due accounts and amounts.
N/A An accounts payable system is in place.
N/A The payroll system correctly calculates payroll and keeps records.
N/A A cash receipt system is in place that records incoming money and how it was spent.
N/A The utility has a cash disbursement system that records how money was spent.
Sustainable Indicators
Answer Question
N/A A chart of accounts is used that identifies categories in a reasonable, usable manner.
N/A Monthly bank reconciliations have been completed for all utility accounts.
N/A 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 village council adopted a utility ordinance that includes a collections policy in June 2000. Gulkana's collections policy has rarely been enforced; many customers are in arrears. The tribe has been considering using the billing support of Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC), but is unsure if this will actually impact collection rates. The tribal council does not enforce disconnection of water service for non-payment of utility bills. Utility bills are sent to residents every two months on a regular cycle. Utility rates have not been adequately raised to compensate for increased fuel costs. Accounting systems are in place; Gulkana bookkeeping staff use QuickBooks and are confident in its use. Oversight and controls for purchases are well developed. Disbursement systems have council oversight with checks requiring two signatures. Decision making related to disbursement in excess of budgeted amounts is determined by the decision making body. There are no delinquent audits reported on the State of Alaska Division of Finance website.

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 utility has received tax clearance from the IRS and is current on all tax filing requirements through March 1, 2013. Tax clearance from the Alaska Department of Labor dated March 15, 2013 has been granted.

Personnel System

Essential Indicators
Answer Question
N/A 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
Gulkana has workers' compensation with LM Insurance Corporation, through Alaska USA Insurance Brokers LLC, to April 2013. The community's adopted personnel policy is comprehensive. New hires have a six month probationary period. Employees receive paid leave and paid holidays. Job descriptions are maintained for all positions. The current filing system houses I-9s in a separate file from individual personnel files; they are filed by year rather than by employee. The bookkeeper was able to immediately access employment documents, although RUBA staff recommended that I-9s be filed (or duplicated and filed) into individual personnel folders. There is not an active, scheduled practice of regular employee evaluation and feedback. While policy specifies job evaluation as an aspect of an employee probationary period, this is irregularly followed in practice. RUBA staff encouraged the development of annual formal employee evaluations, to include both written and verbal feedback. Employee training opportunities are provided within budgetary constraints. With the water utility operator role filled by a single trained individual, offering encouragement and financial support for training and certifying an additional water operator would be a recommended personnel practice. Minutes from council meetings confirm that in the process of hiring a new tribal administrator, the council was active in reviewing the job description and pay rates. The finalized job description was amended and approved by the council.

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.
No 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
A utility ordinance was adopted by the tribal council in June 2000. The tribal council meets monthly, with an occasional exception based on council member availability due to travel and subsistence activity. The council is adequately involved in discussion and shared decision making related to utility management. The council has not enforced collections policies defined in the community's utility ordinance. The bookkeeper handles utility finances, and is well-qualified and organized. The tribal administrator serves the utility manager, handling day-to-day management decisions and relaying a monthly report from the operator to the council. The water utility operator currently functions as a manager in terms of directing operations and defining utility repair priorities; he does not manage utility finances. The water utility operator has received certification as Level 1 Provisional in both Water Treatment and Water Distribution, with certification expiring in December 2014. The introduction of a new water treatment plant will require technical orientation; the water operator has a solid relationship with the assigned Remote Maintenance Worker (RMW), and feels comfortable asking for guidance and training. RUBA staff encouraged tribal staff to continue support of the water operator's certification, most particularly with additional continuing education and documentation necessary to shift the provisional certification to a full Level 1 certification. It is also recommended that the community send a potential back-up operator to water treatment training and certification, so as to have two capable operators in the community. The current water treatment plant, while aging and wearing, is well cared for. The facility is organized and tidy and testing records are carefully kept. Creativity and ingenuity have enabled the operator and the prior tribal administrator to keep water operations functioning even as critical equipment has deteriorated.

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.
No The utility maintains an inventory control list.
No The utility maintains a critical spare parts list.
Operation of Utility Comments
The utility does not have a safety manual nor does utility staff hold safety meetings. There have been no major outages of the utility due to managerial errors. The water operator was not able to provide RUBA staff with an inventory control list or a critical spare parts list. With the new water treatment plant becoming operational this year, a critical spare parts list and recommended preventive maintenance plan will be provided to the community by ANTHC. Guidance and mentorship in the operation of the new water treatment system will be ongoing through the Remote Maintenance Worker program. The community is on the Significant Non-Complier (SNC) list of water quality violations. Comments by Drinking Water Program staff in October 2012 note: System is still having problems with very high DBP's (TTHM/HAA5). System missed sampling 2nd qtr 2012, but Estimated new score= 89 pts. To return to compliance the system needs treatment to reduce very high DBP levels to below the RAA MCL's and continue to collect quarterly TTHM/HAA5 samples. Known hardware issues: Received approval to construct new treatment plant to address TTHM/HAA5 MCL's, meet LT1/LT2, and address lead and copper on January 20, 2012. The intake received construction approval November 10, 2011. A new filtration system for organics removal and a package direct filtration system for LT1 compliance was approved for construction on January 20, 2012. System is expected to go into operation at end of December 2012.