Morenci city council 06.16.2010

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Approval of contracts for city department heads is usually a quick issue for Morenci city council members, but that wasn’t the case Monday.

Following a lengthy discussion, councilors voted 5-1 to approve the contract of library director Colleen Leddy which includes a significant change from the current contract. The new contract includes the same health insurance benefit as the city’s other full-time employees.

When Leddy was hired to serve as director two years ago, she agreed to accept the job without insurance due to the city’s financial situation at the time. This year, with a projected surplus of more than $30,000, council’s Finance and Legal committee recommended offering coverage.

Library board member Sally Kruger said the city employee handbook specifies that all full-time employees are entitled to health care coverage.

“We’re talking about fairness at this point,” she said.

“No, we’re talking budget at this point,” councilor Tracy Schell responded.

What was requested by the library board, she said—the annual budget request to cover wages and utility expenses, without health insurance—was not fully covered by the city, and now there’s a motion to add an even greater expense.

“We need to look at what was requested and grant that first and then look at adding,” Schell said.

The budget approved by council includes a contribution from the library of $6,600.

“How can we say to the library, sorry, we don’t have the money to give you to cover the bills, but we do have the money to cover an insurance policy that was from the beginning set as not available for this position,” Schell said.

Leddy said that the “transfer in” amount—the $6,600 the library is asked to contribute from its savings—is very arbitrary. From sitting at budget meetings, she’s seen how funding is fluid and money is moved around frequently to different funds. The “transfer in” amount could have been reduced, she said.

“Money can be moved around to what you think is important,” she said.

“And do we leave any in savings or do we spend every last penny?” Schell asked.

The city’s contingency figure is in good standing, according to the city treasurer, Leddy said. “It seems like we’re down to a fairness issue.”

“It doesn’t mean it’s set in stone,” mayor Keith Pennington said about the initial contract two years ago. “I think it was everybody’s intention to provide benefits at some point in time. What we’re debating here is whether this is the point in time.”

The contract was approved 5-1, with Schell dissenting and Jason Cook absent. Contracts were also approved for department heads Renée Schroeder, Barney Vanderpool and Larry Weeks.

FIRE DEPARTMENT—Council approved the application of Roger Robinson as the 34th member of the fire department.

Schell announced a $3,000 donation from former Morenci resident Harry Burdick toward the purchase of the used ladder truck.

That donation along with others, said fire department officer Brad Lonis, brings the department within $1,500 of paying for the truck.

MUSIC—Business owner Tim Decker said the hours were adjusted for playing music downtown. It will be played on special occasions and it will not play after 5 p.m.

He invited people to contribute CDs to be played.

Decker said the reason the music was played in the evenings in December was to benefit the bowling alley and restaurants.

FIREWORKS—Council approved the contract for the festival fireworks show, which costs $5,000.

If fund-raising falls short, Schell said, does the city pay the remainder?

Pennington said his understanding is that it would come from the festival budget. He noted that fund-raising is about at the half-way point.

VACATION—Council voted unanimously to pay Vanderpool for 86 hours of vacation time. Last summer, he was unable to take the time off because of a shortage in the DPW staff.

  • Front.splash
    Water Fun—Carter Seitz and Colson Walter take a fast trip along a plastic sliding strip while water from a sprinkler provides the lubrication. The boys took a break from tie-dyeing last week at Morenci’s Summer Recreation Program to cool off in the water.
  • Front.starting
    BIKE-A-THON—Children in Morenci’s Summer Recreation Program brought their bikes last Tuesday to participate in a bike-a-thon. Riders await the start of the event at the elementary school before being led on a course through town by organizer Leonie Leahy.
  • Front.pokemon
    LATEST CRAZE—David Cortes (left) and Ty Kruse, along with Jerred Heselschwerdt (standing), consult their smartphones while engaging in the game of Pokémon Go. The virtual scavenger hunt comes to life when players are in the vicinity of gyms, such as Stair District Library, and PokéStops such as the fire station across the street. The boys had spent time Monday morning searching for Pokémon at Wakefield Park.
  • Front.drum
    on your mark, get set, drum!—Drew Joughin (black shirt), Maddox Joughin and Kaleea Braun took the front row last week when Angela Rettle and assistants led the Stair District Library Summer Reading Program kids in a session of cardio drumming. The sports and healthy living theme continued yesterday with a Mini Jamboree at Lake Hudson State Park arranged by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Next week’s program features the Flying Aces Frisbee show.
  • Girls.on.ride
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  • Front.softball
    Angela Davis (2) and teammate Allison VanBrandt break into a jig after Morenci's softball team won its third consecutive regional title.
  • Front.art.park
    ART PARK—A design created by Poggemeyer Design Group shows a “pocket art park” in the green space south of the State Line Observer building. The proposal includes a 12-foot sculpture based on a design created by Morenci sixth grade student Klara Wesley through a school and library collaboration. A wooden band shell is located at the back of the lot. The Observer wall would be covered with a synthetic stucco material. City council members are considering ways to fund the estimated $125,000 project and perhaps tackling construction one step at a time.
  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
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    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.

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