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.