Morenci city council 06.16.2010

Written 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.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

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