Morenci city council 05.26.10

Written by David Green.

Morenci city council conducted two public hearings Monday night prior to the regular meeting.

The annual budget hearing drew no comments from the public while the parking lot rebuild plan (ICE grant) did result in some discussion.

Scott Merillat of Associated Engineers pointed out a few refinements from the original parking lot proposal that council first discussed in February.

Merillat described changes in the approaches to some parking areas and a walkway on the north side of the main parking lots, behind the businesses.

A sidewalk could also be added along the south side of Baker Street, he said. The best placement, he said, would be right next to the curb because of the limited amount of space in front of some residences.

Mayor Keith Pennington suggested that council might exchange the cost of installing the sidewalks for obtaining an easement for the walk from property owners.

David Sallows, who lives on Baker Street, expressed dissatisfaction with the location of Dumpsters for businesses to use. He suggested moving them north closer to the Eagles. Merillat said he would look at the possibility.

Merillat said if sufficient funds are available, the recycling center drive would also be repaved.

Pennington cautioned residents not to expect to see work begin soon because the city is still waiting to hear back from the state historical preservation agency. When state funds are used for demolition, a review is required.

“We’ll get done what we can this year,” Pennington said.

Budget

The public had no questions about the city’s 2010-11 budget, but there was discussion among council members.

Councilor Tracy Schell asked about the change in the general fund contingency account compared to an earlier proposal, noting a large decrease.

Greg Braun explained that some items increased and others went down. The largest change came in proposed library spending due to the addition of health insurance benefits to library director Colleen Leddy.

The finance committee recommended that when the contract comes due, Pennington said, that health insurance benefits be given to the library director.

He added that perhaps the best time to discuss the issue is when salaries are reviewed in July.

“But it would be difficult to make a change if funds were not in the budget,” he said. “If council decided against offering that, council could move the funds back to the contingency fund.”

Schell noted that the library is still being asked to contribute money to the general fund, and now the proposal is to add an expense more than double that amount.

She suggested waiting until funds are no longer needed from the library and then consider the issue.

Council member Leasa Slocum said the library director is the only full-time staff member not receiving health insurance, and money is now available in the budget.

“I think that would be a wonderful thing to offer once we’re in a position where we don’t have to ask the library for money,” Schell said.

Councilor Jason Cook asked for information about salary raises for city employees. All department heads are receiving a 1.5 percent increase, he was told, except for city administrator Renée Schroeder who is to receive three percent. Union employees will also receive three percent increases.

• Additional city council news will be reported in next week’s Observer.

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