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by Mark Cheffey
The Palmyra City Council voted unanimously to go on record of supporting Proposition A, property tax issue on the April 4 Municipal Election ballot.
Jesse Soondrum, the administrator for Maple Lawn Nursing Home in Palmyra, told council members the continued future of the facility depends on passage of the proposed 13-cent increase in the property tax levy and asked for the council’s support on the issue.
Soodrum said the Marion County Nursing Home District whose board oversees the nursing home, has not asked for a levy boost since the district was formed in 1980.
He said the nursing home has prospered over the years, but has now hit hard times, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic, which has helped lead to a sharp rise in costs, that are not being made up by increases in revenue such as Medicaid reimbursements.
Soodrum said if something is not done to boost revenue, the nursing home will eventually be faced with closure or be sold to a corporate interest.
In the meantime, he said the nursing home has been able continue personalized care and meeting state and federal regulations, while still cutting costs as best it can.
“We’ve cut as much as we can, but it’s not adding up at the end of the day,” said Lynn Blickhan, Maple Lawn’s accounting director.
The Marion County Commission also went on record last Monday in support of Proposition A.
The council also unanimously approved a resolution and letter of support to assist the Palmyra Park’s & Recreation Department to apply for a state grant to help fund the proposed Hutcherson Trail in Flower City Park.
Doug Meyers said he is hopeful the grant will come through due to strong local funding support that includes a major donation by the Hutcherson family to be used for a project that helps promote cardiovascular health.
At the recommendation of Mark Bross, of Klingner & Associates, who serves as the city engineer for special projects, the council voted unanimously to accept the lone bid submitted for installation of a new aeration system for the city’s sewage treatment plant to Martin General Contracting, LLC, out of Eolia, Mo. at a cost of $304,550.
Bross said the bid came in at about $124,350 higher than expected, most of which, he said, as due to the need for an extra building to house a panel.
The original panel planned for was going to cost more and would be delayed in being delivered.
“This short time frame, definitely impacted this project with the number of bids and paying a premium for what is really emergency-type work,” according to Bross.
The new aeration system will replace a 40-year old rotor system of which one of the two rotors broke down this past summer, endangering the sewage plant’s ability to meet DNR standards.
Also at Bross’s recommendation, the council unanimously approved a revised funding application through the DNR’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund Loan program.
If approved it would help fund $7,688,140 in needed sewage line and treatment plant improvements.
The city, at Bross’ direction, planned a similar application early last year, but held off hoping to receive ARPA funding instead, something that failed to come through.
The new funding request will work in concert with the city’s proposed $15 million no- tax bond issue that has been placed on the April 4 Municipal Election ballot.
At the request of Police Chief Eddie Bogue, the council unanimously approved to applications for two grants to fund highway enforcement overtime pay and for new computers for the patrol car fleet.
Council member Patrick Barns reported on a recent Police Committee meeting during which members discussed the possibility of raising police officers pay to $20 per hour, representing an eight percent increase.
However, Council member Ellen Goodwin, who chairs the Finance Committee, took issue with the proposal, questioning if the city can actually afford it during the new budget year which will begin May 1.
“Our budget is going to be tight this year,” Goodwin said, noting a traditional five percent raise was “going to be really high.”
Bogue also reported his department is waiting on a check from the city’s insurance carrier for the patrol car that was damaged in a crash and totaled.
Palmyra Parks & Recreation Director Doug Meyers again raised concerns he will not have enough summer help for the swimming pool and concession stands.
He said he normally has lots of candidates who have applied, but said he has only three so far, when he needs 15 or 16 for the pool.
Meyers blamed some of the lack of interest to higher wages offered elsewhere, and that the parks cannot afford to offer more competitive pay.
The council also heard the first reading of an ordinance revoking and existing ordinance which allowed the city to opt out of the state’s annual sale tax holiday.
City Attorney James Lemon said the state legislature recently removed the opt-out portion of the state sales tax holiday statute.
Council member, Brock Fahy, urged department heads to finish submitting updated job descriptions for city personnel.