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by Mark Cheffey
Mayor Rusty Adrian broke a tie vote in favor of approving the Palmyra Board of Public Works budget for the coming fiscal year.
The tie-breaking vote came after three city council members, Brock Fahy, Ellen Goodwin and Pam Behring, voted against the budget over raises in employee pay.
With Andrew Salsman, Patrick Barnes and Earl Meyers voting in favor of the budget, Adrian, who spoke out in favor of the budget prior to the vote, allowed the budget to go through.
Meanwhile, budgets for the city and park department were given unanimous approval.
All three budgets included five percent raises for all department heads and seconds in command, and eight percent raises for all other employees.
However, Fahy, Goodwin and Behring took issue with special provision in the BPW budget that gave extra pay for journymen linemen.
Proponents, including the mayor, said the special pay raises were needed in order to help the BPW retain the employees who could otherwise go to work somewhere else for higher pay.
“We want to keep our employees working here together,” Adrian said. “I think it’s important we keep them here as much as we can.”
Opponents said it was important to hold the line on costs.
“We need to be good stewards and be aware of the costs of running the city,” Behring said, noting the across-the-board raises “should be sufficient.”
“We owe it to the citizens to try to hold the line on our budget and keep from having to raise taxes,” Goodwin said.
The vote may have come closer to going the other way, as Salsman, in his final meeting as council member, took a moment before casting his vote and said he voted yes “grudgingly.”
Both sides tried to clear the air of any perceived acrimony by saying there should not be any hurt feelings as a result of the vote.
“At the end of the year, we all work together,” Fahy said.
“This wasn’t personal,” Goodwin said.
Council members also praised those involved in the budget process for their efforts.
“This was a difficult budget,” said Goodwin, who chairs the Finance Committee that led the process.
The BPW budget calls for $5,941,100 total revenues and expenses, slightly up from the current year’s $5,912,380.
The new budget, which goes into effect May 1, includes an electric department budget of $4,310,900; water department budget of $1,054,100; and a sewer department budget of $626,100.
The city budget includes $362,815 for city (down from $499,395), $115,840 for office (down from $123,150), $37,780 for building inspection (down from $43 880; $792,300 for the Street Department (up from $697,300); $778,615 for the Police Department (up from $660,025) and $2,650 for recycling (same as this year).
The new Parks & Recreation Department budget is $391,453, up from the current total of $356,000.
The council also certified the April 4 election results and swore in Mayor Rusty Adrian and council members Fahy (Ward 1), Steve Bland (Ward 2) and Pam Behring (Ward 3).
In reorganizing the new council, Fahy was unanimously reelected as mayor pro tem.
The council voted unanimously to approve three ordinances:
• eliminating the now defunct fire department from various sections of city ordinances.
• rezoning property located at 616 South Main Street and owned by Jason L. Crabill, Stacy M. Crabill, Joshua B. Timbrook and Toni J. Timbrook from R-I single family and two family residential to C-I commercial; and
• establishing a storm water runoff management section in the city’s ordinances.
Also approved unanimously was a city employee manual policy for “work from home as a result of illness.”
It was unanimously voted to have the mayor sign contacts in connection with the proposed proposed bridge project at West Main Cross and Bradley streets and the Griesbaum Subdivision lift station project.
It was also voted unanimously to authorize the mayor to sign the Community Improvement District petition for city owned properties.
Mayor Adrian gave an update on the proposed hotel project and noted that $2.1 million of the initial $7 million investment needed for it will need to come from local investors, and said he was confident the money could be raised.
BPW Superintendent Brent Abell said a DNR letter was received concerning the sewer plant aeration situation, but that the department was informed of the impending project to rectify problem.
Street Commissioner Austin Dornberger reported his department was losing an employee and would be advertising to fill the opening.
Earl Meyer reported a person fell through the Palmyra Nutrition Center floor, but was uninjured. He also praised the street department for fixing the floor in a timely fashion.
The council discussed a request from the Marion County Library to remove a handicap ramp located in front of the facility, due to its lack of use.
It was decided that Dornberger would visit with the library about the proposal and that City Attorney James Lemon would look into the legalities of it in connection with federal handicap accessibility.