Today is Thursday, August 24, 2017

Council splits vote on budget, personnel code

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By a 4-1 vote of the Lebanon City Council, the city's budget for the upcoming fiscal year has passed the first of three readings required to enact it, with Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath voting no.

Warmath doesn't approve of funding the construction of Fire Station No. 4 in the southwest section of the city, beside Highway 109, she said after the meeting. Her reason is that no funding is available to staff it, she added.

City Finance Commissioner Robert Springer has told her that the city will need to add taxes if it keeps spending at its current rate, the Ward 6 councilor also said. Springer was not present at the council meeting Tuesday night to confirm or discuss Warmath's statement, however.

"We need to set better priorities, based on need, not want," the Ward 6 councilor concluded.

Handbook revision rescinded
The city council also decided to rescind an ordinance granting authority to Human Resources Director Sylvia Reichle to revise the employee handbook.

Ward 2 Councilor Fred Burton said he's concerned about the wording in the ordinance, which takes authority away from the council, in his opinion. City Attorney Andy Wright agreed that some of the wording may have been a little too strong.

Warmath agreed and seconded Burton's motion, saying she "only wants to be sure what Sylvia does is proper."

Both Mayor Philip Craighead and Ward 3 Councilor Rob Cesternino pointed out that the ordinance has already passed and work is progressing. Cesternino said, "I don't want us to abdicate our responsibility. I just want to have a credentialed person do the revision."

'Let her do her job'
Ward 5 Councilor Tick Bryan said he agrees with Cesternino, although he ended up voting with the majority for Burton's motion.

"I want her to do her job. I trust her," Bryan said. "Why don't we let our employees do their job? Just let her get the book written and then decide if we want to accept it."

After further discussion, Warmath proposed a compromise which involved voting on first reading for an ordinance to rescind and amend the original ordinance, but to go ahead and vote on a resolution which would put the city in compliance with federal and state regulations regarding paid time off and work attendance.

The ordinance to rescind passed 4-1 with Cesternino opposed and Ward 2 Councilor Lanny Jewell absent. The resolution regarding paid time off passed unanimously.

New trucks, gasification bonds
The council also unanimously passed ordinances Tuesday night on first reading:

Renewing a contract with Bush Construction for gas system rehabilitation and improvements.

Authorizing line-item transfers for the Water Department and the Police Department.

Approving the purchase of a knuckle boom truck for the Street Department and a refuse truck for the Sanitation Department.

Accepting a bid from Background Check Services.

Authorizing payments to Regions Bank for filing the IRS form for the $3.5 million Quality Energy Conservation Bonds loan for the gasification project and for making payments to the bondholders.

Public Works Commissioner Jeff Baines said the actual work on the waste-to-energy project should start this fall. "When it happens, it will go up fast," he said.

Writer Connie Esh can be reached at cewrites@yahoo.com.

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