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Willapa Harbor Herald • Town Crier
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Vader closer to reclaiming water system after finding-free audit

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Vader officials are celebrating a recent audit of City Hall that reported no findings, stating the results are one more step toward fulfilling requirements to regain their water system from Lewis County.

Shared with officials on Dec. 10, the results of the audit, conducted by the State Auditor's Office during the last several weeks, show there were no findings in either Vader's fiscal or policy practices during 2012 and 2013, which had been the first such finding-free report for the city since 2006, according to the Auditor's Office.

"It represents a milestone in my own experience in the City of Vader," said Mayor Ken Smith to the City Council when sharing the results of the audit during their Dec. 11 meeting.

The significance of the audit is contrasted with events beginning in 2009, during which time the city encountered a shortfall of roughly $120,000 in their general budget, which had been the result, according to a 2010 report from the Auditor's Office, of invoices and billing records being withheld from city officials by the city clerk.

The Auditor's Office has since stated they believe no current members of city staff or leadership were responsible for this shortfall, and believe all outstanding accounts have been settled.

After a significant reduction in staff and services to pay off the deficit, Vader survived 2010 with $9 remaining in their general budget, and has since begun restoring funding for city departments as it becomes available.

While these events were unfolding, the city's water system was experiencing such a high level of infiltration of untreated water, a court mandated Lewis County take possession of the system in March of 2010 in order to protect public health, as Vader was not in a position to adequately make repairs.

An agreement between Vader and Lewis County was finalized in February of this year outlining the requirements Vader would have to meet in order to receive the water system back, which included proper management of the city's existing sewer system, as well as the completion of two audits without findings, the first of which the city just received.

"We're half-way home, is how I look at it," continued Smith, who stated the Auditor's report did suggest some administrative improvements for City Hall, but did not find any violations of state policy. "Any rumors to the effect that we're running afoul of state law or engaging in any improper malfeasance with revenue streams in the City of Vader is not based in any sort of auditorial fact."

Vader's last audit in 2012 did contain two findings, including their lack of financial reserves at the end of the year (Washington cities are expected to keep at least one month's worth of expenses in reserve to address potential shortfalls), as well as the hiring of contractors without verifying their state credentials. These have since been addressed by changes in practice and policy, and were not identified as concerns during the most recent audit.

Smith noted, if Vader can again pass their next audit in 2016 without any findings, they will begin entering the process of reclaiming Vader's water system, which the county has indicated will be given back to Vader in its entirety and without an expectation of compensation, should current requirements be met.

Those curious about the details of Vader's audit, as well as previous audits, may access such records for free at www.sao.wa.gov, and may call the Auditor's Office at (360) 902-0370 for additional information.

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