SPECIAL MEETING OF
THE TOWN OF MIAMI MAYOR AND COUNCIL
Wednesday May 27, 2015 6:30 PM Council Chambers
The Town of Miami’s economic woes are formidable, of that
there is no doubt. The question is whether they’re
surmountable. Last night’s Special Meeting of the Town of
Miami Mayor and Council poignantly displayed the
problem. While it’s easy to sling mud and point fingers, the
reality is more dire than that.
The sewer project is on hold for seven reasons. Six are
relatively easy to correct, but the solution for the 7th: the
necessity to have reserve funds of $34,000 plus thousands of
dollars in replacement capital on hand—is more elusive.
And it couldn’t come at a worse time. As auditors have
highlighted in the past, the Town’s practice of comingling
funds runs counter to the assurances made to get them.
That’s particularly true of HURF funds, the Arizona
Highway User Revenue Funds that are distributed to
municipalities under the condition that their use will be
restricted to roadwork-related expenses. But instead of
maintaining separate accounts for distinct funds, Miami’s
money has all gone into the same pool.
Town Manager Joe Heatherly and finance director Rachelle
Sanchez have pledged to end this practice with the first
budget under their command, but doing so further tightens
Miami’s cash flow. As auditors have also recognized, the
misuse of HURF funds, while flagrant, was pragmatic. The
money went for such necessities as meeting payroll. Now
the fund faces not only the proper segregation of the
accounts, but the repayment of hundreds of thousands of
misdirected HURF dollars. Regardless, as Heatherly flatly
stated, there’s no choice here. He told the Council he
guarantees if the comingling doesn’t stop, the HURF funds
will be gone.
And then there’s the strain of making the over $19,000
interest-only payment on the USDA loan, which was
submitted over a month late. That, plus computer problems,
have led to vendor payments not being made. The Council
tabled approval of demands for now. Sanchez reported that
the problems were being addressed and payments are now
going out. But as to fulfilling the USDA requirements?
Heatherly is less confident.
He told the Council that there are serious decisions that need
to be made this week. He didn’t elaborate as to what they
might be, but he warned that if decisions weren’t made,
getting the necessary reserve funds will be impossible. He
explained that amassing that amount of money could
otherwise take nine months, and the Town can’t afford to
allow the project to be delayed. If there is more than a 90
day delay, rebids will come into play, another rainy season is
a good possibility, and costs will escalate.
All involved recognize the severity of the situation, and it’s
not surprising that conflicts are in evidence. The majority of
the Council was concerned over the alleged actions of
Councilmember Mike Black. The Council was under the
impression that he met with USDA Community Programs
Specialist Jeff Hooper to share his opinion that payments for
the loan would never be made. Black explained that he
never met with Hooper, but had set up a meeting with
Hooper’s boss, USDA Community Programs Director Nancy
Veres, for constituent Richard Canazales. Canazales, a
former Town of Miami employee, has leveled many
accusations of malfeasance and mismanagement by the
Council. Black admitted attending the meeting, but said he
did not make any comment. And he defended his right to
help a citizen make his voice known. He further conveyed
his belief that the Council assumed he was trying to derail
the project, when he was not. He said he was concerned
with how the process of meeting the conditions for the
project is being handled.
Whether Black was appropriate in his behavior or taking
rogue actions that should be sanctioned was discussed in
executive session but tabled. Likewise for a letter
Councilmember Rosemary Castaneda drafted to be sent to
the USDA. Her concern was that the USDA should
understand that anything Councilmember Black might have
imparted was his own opinion and not that of the Council's.
Mayor Darryl Dalley and Councilmember Don Reiman felt
that such a letter could give the impression that things in
Miami were in disarray, causing the USDA to look harder at
KQSS’ Jon Cornell pointed out that by discussing this at a
Public Meeting, a letter was moot. The contents are now
public record and the USDA undoubtedly would be aware of
Though not on the agenda, communication issues were of
obvious concern to the Council. The majority said they were
blindsided by the revelations at the meeting last week that
Miami had missed the USDA payment. Ray Webb, who
introduced himself in the Call to the Public segment as a
former councilmember and member of the Wastewater
Advisory Board, wondered how it was that Councilmember
Black was aware of this, and the rest of the Council was not.
The USDA has promised that future communiqués will go
to each Councilmember as well as Heatherly, who
mentioned his surprise that no one ever asked him if he
received a letter about the delinquent payment. ‘Yes I got
it,’ he said. ‘And I did something with it, and I’m not going
to go further than that. I can guarantee you this will never
What will happen is less certain. Details at the next Regular
Meeting on Monday June 8th, if not sooner.