Quarterly Report: 2012, October - December (Q2), Coffman Cove

Coffman Cove 
Glen Hamburg  
DCRA Regional Office:
Gov't Type:
Second Class City 
Agreement Date:
City of Coffman Cove 
Assessment Status:
Assessment Date:
Exp Date:
Last Updated:
Community Sanitation Overview:
The City of Coffman Cove is located on the northeast coast of Prince of Wales Island 42 miles southeast of Wrangell. The city operates a Class 2 water treatment system and a wastewater collection system. A city-run solid waste collection service is also available, whereby garbage is collected locally and then dumped at a landfill facility 35 miles away in Thorne Bay. Electricity is provided by the Alaska Power Company.  
RUBA Status & Activities This Qtr:
RUBA staff travelled to Coffman Cove December 12-14 to conduct a utility management assessment and provide training to new utility staff and officials. Three members of the city council, the treasurer, the city/utility clerk, and a member of the public participated in two evening trainings that covered the responsibilities of public officials, ordinances and resolutions, budgeting, rate setting, Title 29 of state statute, the city's code of ordinances, conflict of interest, and the Open Meetings Act. On the morning of December 14, RUBA staff provided one-on-one training to the newly-hired city/utility clerk in the writing and codification of ordinances and strategies for taking meeting minutes. Throughout the quarter, RUBA staff also assisted the city in creating budget versus actual profit and loss reports, drafting employment letters of acceptance, securing personnel files, outlining the responsibilities of a future city administrator position, abiding by conflict of interest requirements, and using parliamentary procedure during public meetings. 
RUBA Activities for the Coming Qtr:
City officials in Coffman Cove have requested that the 32-hour RUBA 'Personnel Management for Rural Utilities' training be conducted in the area in late winter or early spring. RUBA staff will work to schedule the training at the community's convenience, along with Prince of Wales Island city/utility clerk roundtable trainings. In addition to offering training opportunities, RUBA staff will work with community officials to address unmet essential and sustainable RUBA indicators. Specifically, RUBA staff will assist in the development of balance sheet and budget versus actual profit and loss reports, help to amend the municipal code's personnel title to adopt the employee handbook by reference, create an organizational chart, and establish a purchasing system that requires prior approval for every utility-related purchase. Further, RUBA staff will work to ensure that the city's 2011 and 2012 Consumer Confidence Reports are drafted and delivered to utility customers.
Essential Indicators:
25 of 26
Sustainable Indicators:
18 of 27
Total Score:
43 of 53


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.
No 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
No 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.
No 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
The City of Coffman Cove adopted a balanced FY12 budget by non-code ordinance on June 23, 2011 for the fiscal period beginning July 1, 2011 and ending June 30, 2012. The ordinance includes a financial summary of all projected revenues and expenses for the fiscal year, followed by a detailed breakdown of all associated expenses for each city department and service. FY12 budgeted figures are compared alongside those from FY11. In reviewing those comparisons, RUBA staff found that the city has budgeted to spend approximately 75 percent more on its water and wastewater enterprises this fiscal year than the previous, yet it has also adopted a balanced plan to collect enough in user fees alone to meet those expenses. The water and wastewater department portion of the budget realistically and sufficiently appropriates funds for the salaries of utility employees, their portion of workers' compensation insurance and taxes, holiday/bonus pay, travel and training costs, water testing, the purchase of heating fuel from R and R Fuel on an as-needed basis, telephone charges, electricity, facility insurance, chemicals, office and clerical supplies, postage, vehicle fuel, bank charges, contractual labor, supplies and spare parts, repair and maintenance costs, and all other expenses incurred through the operation of Coffman Cove's sanitation services. The city contracts with Alaska Business Partners, a Ketchikan-based bookkeeping service, to have monthly financial reports prepared for the city council. At the time of this assessment, these reports did not include a balance sheet or a budget versus actual comparison on the profit and loss statement. The reports do, however, show the gross profits, expenses, and net income of the city's utility enterprises for the relevant time period. A thorough, written manager's financial report is also provided to the council at each regular meeting which explains income and expense amounts and narrates potential cost-saving financial strategies. It is not possible to determine from the financial reports alone whether year-to-date revenues and expenses are at or near to those budgeted. However, by prorating the budget expenses to the current portion of the fiscal year and then comparing that figure to the city's year-to-date expense levels, it is evident that the utility has spent nearly double the amount projected for this point in the city's fiscal year. The written manager's report explains that cost overruns are from the one-time only expense of installing water meters. Though planned, such expenses fall unevenly throughout the fiscal year and the city is aware that its overall annual expenses will even out according to the adopted budget over the second half of FY12. RUBA staff similarly prorated the total annual projected utility income figure and compared it to the year-to-date amount to find that the utility has collected approximately 90 percent of the income it planned to take in by this point in the fiscal year. The city is scheduled to adopt a budget amendment at the end of December in order to bring the budget in line with actual income and expense levels for each line item. The Alaska Power Company (APT) provides electrical service to the City of Coffman Cove. RUBA staff reviewed five service statements and found that the utility is current in paying all of its electric bills to APT and that Power Cost Equalization (PCE) credits are applied as appropriate.

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.
No 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
Bills for city services are mailed to customers the first week of each month on a postcard that includes the customer's name and address, the amount due for water and sewer services, previous statement balances, late fees, net balances, and the due date. While the postcard billings have saved the city significant money on postage, standard statements enclosed in an envelope are provided to customers with privacy concerns. Customers have until the 25th day of each month to submit their payments by mail, in person during the city's business hours, by credit card, or through a regularly occurring 'auto-pay' charge system. If a customer does not pay within 45 days, their account is considered delinquent and the city actively enforces its adopted collections policy. That policy is outlined in Title VII of the Coffman Cove Municipal Code and provides for a late payment fee, disconnection, reconnection fees, and denial of other city services such as harbor, internet, and garbage service. Delinquent accounts may also be referred to a third-party collection agency. Customers may, however, appeal any decision resulting in these actions to the city council at the next regular council meeting. QuickBooks accounting software is used for the accounts receivable, accounts payable, and payroll processes. Customers are also offered a written receipt of their service payment from a receipt book that records the customer's name and address, the date, the payment amount, what the payment was for, the form of payment, and who the payment was received by. All payments are then recorded in a detailed logbook and the QuickBooks system which can clearly identify customers who are current in their payments and those who are 30 days, 60 days, or 90 days past due. The city's cash disbursement system consists of a logical chart of accounts, a purchase order process, and a check register. The carbon copy purchase orders are individually numbered, show how money will be spent, and include space for an authorizing signature. Still, purchase orders are not completed by utility staff prior to every purchase. Section 4.04.050 of the city's code of ordinances only mandates that purchases of supplies, materials, equipment, or contractual services costing more than $2,000 require prior approval of the city council. Nonetheless, all purchases are closely monitored by the city administrator or the city official temporarily fulfilling the administrator role.

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 of Coffman Cove contracts with Alaska Business Partners in Ketchikan who accurately calculates, tracks, and reports the city's payroll tax liabilities. The IRS Taxpayer Advocacy Office confirmed on December 22, 2011 that Coffman Cove is current in its federal tax reports and filings and that the IRS has no liens against the city. The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development confirmed on December 14 that all state tax payments are current as well.

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.
No 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
All city employees are covered by an Alaska Municipal League Joint Insurance Association (AMLJIA) workers' compensation insurance policy. That policy is effective from July 1, 2011 through July 1, 2012 and covers work-related accidents and occupational diseases up to the Alaska statutory limits for each occurrence. Proof of coverage is posted at the city office. RUBA staff verified that the city is current in its payments to AMLJIA and that adequate funds have been allocated in the annual budget for payments over the remainder of the fiscal year. The City of Coffman Cove implements a comprehensive personnel management system with the mayor, vice mayor, and city council continually reviewing personnel matters. A personnel handbook adopted by resolution on March 15, 2002 outlines the hiring and evaluation process, conditions of employment, a probationary period, disciplinary and grievance procedures, and general workplace expectations. Though the city abides by this handbook, a complete and often contradictory set of personnel policies are also contained in Title III of the city's code of ordinances. City officials explained that they are working to repeal the policies within Title III and formally adopt the separate handbook by reference. The city will continue to enforce the handbook's policies until then. All city staff, including the water and wastewater operator, have formal written job descriptions that explain their position's purpose, duties, supervisor, and required skills and qualifications. The descriptions also list whether the position is full-time or part-time, whether travel is required, and the position's salary range. Each employee undergoes an annual performance review which evaluates how well the employee is meeting their position's duties on a one to five scale. The review also considers job knowledge, the employee's representation of the city, communication skills, and goals as agreed upon by the employee and city administrator. Signed copies of the job descriptions and performance reviews are filed in individual personnel files. The files also contain W-4s, Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9s, and copies of relevant certifications. Yet at the time of the assessment, not all employee files contained original position applications or letters of acceptance. The city continues to budget for and provide training opportunities to its staff as needed and available. In the city's FY12 budget, $17,300 is allocated for staff travel and training, $4,150 of which is specifically for the water and wastewater department. City staff attended the 32-hour RUBA Financial Management for Rural Utilities course in August 2011, as well as other RUBA trainings previously. RUBA staff provided onsite training to the city council and the newly-hired city clerk as requested in December and has agreed to offer the 32-hour Personnel Management for Rural Utilities class for community officials in early 2012.

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
No 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 City of Coffman Cove owns and operates the community's sanitation systems. Ordinances giving the city the necessary operational and regulatory authority have been adopted and properly codified in Title VII of the local municipal code, which is readily available in print at the city office and online at the city's website. The seven-member city council is the city's governing authority and the utility's policy-making body. The council holds regular meetings as required by Alaska Statutes Title 29 on the third Thursday of each month. To comply with Alaska's Open Meetings Act, the city consistently posts notice of each meeting at least five days in advance at the city hall, the library, the post office, a local liquor store, and a local grocery store. Each notice indicates the type of meeting to be held, as well as its location, date, and time. The city council is active in policy-making for the utility, as evidenced in the six months of council meeting minutes reviewed by RUBA staff. The meetings minutes show that council is provided with written financial narratives, briefings on ongoing utility upgrade projects, staffing issues, training requests, and concerns of the public. The minutes also show that municipal acts, including resolutions and budget amendments, are adopted as necessary and in accordance with standard rules of parliamentary procedure. The city council has given itself the authority to amend its utility fee schedule and enter into billing arrangements and repayment plans with utility customers by resolution. All additional rules and regulations for water and wastewater service are outlined in Chapter 7.04 of the municipal code. The chapter's provisions are properly enforced; customers are assessed late fees, issued delinquency notices, and disconnected from service as required. The city administrator serves as utility manager, though the position is currently vacant. The city council recently placed the vice mayor, Misty Fitzpatrick, in charge of utility management and city administration until a permanent appointment is made in February 2012. Ms. Fitzpatrick has received formal training from RUBA staff in the roles and responsibilities of public officials, ordinances and resolutions, budgeting, rate setting, Title 29 of state statute, the local municipal code, strategies for effective meetings, the Alaska Open Meetings Act, executive sessions, ex parte contact, and conflict of interest. From years of operating her own small business, Ms. Fitzpatrick also brings critical financial management experience. She and other city officials actively seek management assistance from RUBA staff when necessary. As noted in previous sections, the city utilizes the professional services of Alaska Business Partners in Ketchikan for most of its financial, accounting, tax-payment, and bookkeeping needs. Staff at Alaska Business Partners are willing and able to provide city officials with the financial resources and information that they need to effectively manage the community's utilities. Additionally, the city recently hired a new treasurer and a new city clerk who will be cross-trained to assist in utility billings and bookkeeping. These staff participated in the same formal trainings as the vice mayor and the city clerk has received one-on-one training from RUBA staff on elements of her job description. The State of Alaska's Division of Water has rated Coffman Cove's water treatment system at the Class 2 level based on the plant's various components. Its primary operator, Ronald Rusher, is fully certified with a Level 2 endorsement that expires on December 31, 2012. Mr. Rusher has already obtained the requisite number of Continued Education Units (CEUs). The city does not currently utilize an organizational chart that indicates levels of authority and the relationship between supervisors and subordinates.

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.
No 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
As noted in the 'Organizational Management' section, the primary utility operator is adequately certified at the appropriate classification level for the city's water treatment and water distribution systems and continues to meet his CEU requirements on time. The operator's distribution certificate had expired on December 31, 2010; however, distribution systems with less than 100 service connections and serving less than 500 people are exempt from water distribution certification requirements. The distribution system in Coffman Cove has approximately 75 service connections serving just over 140 people. The primary operator is assisted by two uncertified, yet adequately trained back-up operators. All utility staff follow a safety manual and preventative maintenance plan specific to Coffman Cove's equipment and participate in regular safety meetings. The meetings are documented on forms provided by AMLJIA that list the date of the meeting, the training topics discussed, the titles of any materials issued, and the names of employees present. Resources explaining general safety practices such as lifting and common workplace hazards are also available. Coffman Cove's sanitation facilities have not suffered any major outages due to management issues and continue to operate at the proposed level of service. However, the city's water treatment system is still listed on the Environmental Protection Agency's most recent Significant Non-Compliance (SNC) list for elevated levels of disinfection by-products (DBPs) and for delayed submission of its 2011 Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). This list was last updated in October of 2011. City officials consult with the primary operator regularly and written utility status reports are given to the council each month. Though some critical spare parts are kept on hand at the utility, the operators have not maintained an inventory control list or a critical spare parts list.