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by Mark Cheffey
The city of Palmyra is preparing to go to the voters in April to raise a fee and change two antiquated portions of the city charter.
The city council Thursday heard the first of two required readings of three ordinances that, if passed as expected during the next meeting, Jan. 7, would place the three propositions on the April 5 General Municipal Election ballot.
In other business, the council voted to vacate an unused alley, granted a property line variance, adopted a city of Palmyra credit card policy, amended the city employee handbook, voted to settle a lawsuit and approved an appointment to the Board of Public Works.
If given final approval, the three ballot issues would include:
Proposition 1, which would change the city charter to eliminate the need for having proposed ordinances be read in their entirety during two open council meetings prior to approval;
Proposition 2, which would remove all references to the title of municipal judge; and
Proposition 3, which would raise the annual city business license fee from $10 to $25.
The practice of reading proposed ordinances out loud in public twice before voting on them is considered by the council, as well as the city attorney who actually performs the reading, to be a cumbersome and antiquated practice.
While most ordinances considered by the council consist of maybe two or three pages of text, there have been times when the council has heard readings of ordinances over 30 pages that have taken a half hour to 45 minutes to complete.
The ordinance regarding ordinance reading itself fills most of three pages and takes about five minutes to read out loud.
The ordinance text notes the reading requirement was “created at a time when there was not good access to the voters to information regarding ordinances without attending meetings of the council and listening to a reading in full.”
Council agendas and ordinances are now made available to the public on the internet prior to the time they are addressed by the council.
Under city charter, the city must go to the voters to make changes to the charter.
Such is the case, also, with Proposition 2 which would officially eliminate references to a municipal judge, something the city did away with when it transferred the municipal court to the Marion County Associate Circuit Court at the end of 2020.
Meanwhile, Proposition 3, if placed on the ballot and passed by a simple majority would raise the city business license fee for the first time since it was instituted in 1993.
The fee, which is used to offset costs for staff, document preparation and other costs, would go up from $10 to $25.
After a second ordinance reading, the council voted 5-0 in favor of vacating a platted alley that runs north and south in the Abells/Subway property.
The alley has been built over, and the property owners requested the vacation to clean up the property deed.
The council also voted in favor allowing a property line variance at 222 W. Jefferson St. as requested by Andrew Salsman so he can build a carport within five feet of the property line.
The variance was agreed to by Salsman’s neighbor, and the council voted 4-0 in favor with Salsman abstaining.
The council voted 5-0 in favor of a resolution establishing a credit card policy for the city which sets specific rules regulating city issued credit cards which are used by department heads to “facilitate purchases necessary for city operation.”
By a 5-0 vote, the council followed the recommendations of City Attorney James Lemons and BPW Superintendent Brent Abell to authorize the mayor to accept a $6,000 lawsuit settlement offer from John G. Mink and others, concerning damage done to some power poles.
Lemons said the settlement came after considerable negotiations, and while the amount only covers the cost of materials, it does forego a possible court trial of some expense.
The council voted 5-0 to accept Mayor Rusty Adrian’s appointment of Tim Browning to a vacancy on the Board of Public Works.
At the recommendation of the Personnel Committee chaired by Brock Fahy, the council voted 5-0 in favor of amending the city employee handbook to reflect sick leave taken as time worked.
Fahy said the committee has also discussed a possible boot allowance for BPW and street department employees.
The council turned down two bids to purchase 2.5 city-owned lots on W. Water St.
Fahy said the high bid of $3,500 was below what he considered market value for the property.
Salsman moved to accept the bid, but there was no second.
Abell reported his employees, with the help of the street department, have been busy trimming trees along the main electric transmission lines along north Dickerson St.
He also noted the board is working with engineers to obtain feasability studies and pre-engineering reports for various projects in order to seek possible grant funding in the near future.
Adrian advised the council that a city advisory board will become active in January to develop transportation needs for the city.
Fahy reported that public meetings will begin in January for the proposed Community Improvement District.