The first meeting of the Columbia City Council in 2021 consisted of a review of city finances and accounting from the previous year.
Jim Schmersahl of Schmersahl Treloar & Co. reported to the council remotely about the audit findings, giving the city’s finances a “clean opinion.”
One major difference from previous audits was the need for an additional audit concerning federal money given to the city through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development.
Columbia received a Community Development Block Grant of $1 million for constuction of a new building at the 11 South business complex off West Sand Bank Road that will house DeRossett Investments.
While the city was the applicant for the grant, they were only a “third party” in the grant but still responsible for ensuring the money was handled in compliance with state and federal requirements for such grants.
Federal regulations stipulate an additional “single audit” occur when an entity receives over $750,000 of federal money. Schmersahl reported the audit found no noncompliance, deficiencies or internal control issues calling it a “very positive report.”
During the general audit report, Schmersahl noted the grant money inflated some numbers compared to prior years as a function of the funds going through the city, but otherwise there was nothing negative to mention concerning the city’s financial position and accounting practices.
One positive note was that the city has paid off the tax increment financing bonds issued in 2007.
Schmersahl closed his report by thanking Columbia Treasurer Linda Sharp and staff for “working hard under difficult circumstances.”
At the beginning of the meeting, Tyler McWhorter became the newest member of the Columbia Police Department and was sworn in by Columbia Mayor Kevin Hutchinson.
McWhorter served as a certified police officer for St. Louis County before joining the Columbia department. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice studies.
In other city news, a lottery was held Dec. 30 to determine what order names for candidates in contested elections would appear on the ballot for the April 6 election.
In the mayoral race, Bob Hill will be the top name with Wesley J. Hoeffken below. In the two aldermanic races, Douglas G. Garmer will appear above incumbent James H. Agne for the Ward I seat and incumbent Eugene J. Ebersohl will be placed above challenger Paul J. Khoury on the ballot in Ward III.
The city clerk position is uncontested with Andrew Hitzemann as the candidate. Aldermen Mark Roessler in Ward II and Mary Ellen Niemietz in Ward IV are also running unopposed.