by Kathy Crawford
Alderman Larry Hill at the city of Tracy suggested to fellow board members and mayor at a meeting last week that all of them should give up their pay for the rest of 2008.
City attorney Lisa Rehard said that it's not that simple.
“You can't legally refuse it,” she said. “You can donate it, but you can't refuse it.”
That's because the compensation, which only totals $1,400 per year for all four aldermen and the mayor, is law.
“I don't think that's going to be an easy hill to climb,” said Mayor Brenda Ferguson. She only draws $50 per month but reminded Hill that she spends many hours per week working for the city.
Alderman Julie Thomas said she objects to giving up any pay, but she told Hill he was free to donate his portion if he wanted. Hill's argument is that the city is in a financial bind, so he feels they should suspend their pay for the year.
“The general fund itself is okay,” said Thomas.
Alderman Rita Rhoads said that she doesn't think that $1,400 is going to have much of an impact on the city's financial situation. Rehard said that in addition to time, the aldermen and mayor have expenses out of pocket.
“I don't think it's unreasonable to reimburse some of the costs,” said Rehard.
Hill told Rehard that he wants to see a copy of the ordinance on compensation for the city.
A potentially expensive thorn in the city's side is its water tower and compliance issues with the Department of Natural Resources. The mayor told the board that the DNR has a requirement for the city to perform chlorine and PH tests on the city's water, which Public Water Supply District No. 9 currently supplies. The board unanimously approved the purchase of 100 test kits.
“We have a long way to go,” said Ferguson. She said she thought that the telemetry system could be as much as $10,000 and the maintenance on the empty water tower could climb to $100,000 before it's all over.
These figures caused a stir among board members, and they asked the mayor how she had derived at them. Ferguson told the board that when the DNR inspected the water tower, they found other problems, such as the lining needs to be repaired or replaced.
“We cannot afford this,” said Ferguson. She said that she is hopeful the city can get a letter from the fire marshal stating that the water tower is unnecessary in case of a fire because the water pressure is high enough without it. The DNR would likely accept a letter from the fire marshal and not require the city to upgrade the water tower, Ferguson said.
The board approved a charge of $255 annually to bond five city employees or elected officials for $10,000 each. Currently, only the city clerk, the treasurer and the court clerk are bonded at a cost of $250 per year.
“That would ensure that all our signatories on banks accounts would be bonded,” said Ferguson.
The mayor and Rhoads are also on the checking accounting, but neither is bonded as required by law. Rehard said that anyone who is collecting money or has the authority to write checks should be bonded. The board unanimously approved bonding Rhoads and Ferguson.
The board also made a decision on how to respond to a letter from the city of Weston. The letter asks for Tracy's position on Weston annexing roadways. The mayor said the roadways are Old JJ and part of Highway 273 and that she objects to the annexation. However, Rhoads said that Tracy can't afford to expand. The Tracy Board of Aldermen's official position on the annexation is that they have “no position.” Rehard will send a letter to Weston in response.