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Council narrowly creates new water position

BUCKEYE LAKE- By a 4-3 vote, Buckeye Lake Village Council members approved a new position for a full-time water supervisor Monday night.

The legislation also turns two currently part-time water department positions – clerk and laborer – into full-time positions. Mayor Rick Baker plans to move part-time water tech Toby Miller into the new supervisor position. Some residents and council members have objected that the position’s $45,000 a year salary is too high. Miller would be the village’s highest paid employee.

Several council members wanted the position to be discussed in more detail in committee. Finance Committee chair Kaye Hartman said committee members had reviewed the position and agreed its job description was vague, so they sent it to the personnel committee, where it was clarified. She said the next step was to go back to Finance to discuss the salary.

Council members, by a 5-2 vote, agreed to discuss it Monday night. Hartman and Personnel Committee chair Patrick Brighton favored further discussion in committee. Council member Jeryne Peterson commented Wednesday that she would have also voted “no” if she had known it was going to be pushed for a vote Monday night.

“I’d like to get this out of the way,” said Baker Monday night. He said the $45,000 starting salary may be high compared to what other people who live in Buckeye Lake Village make, but “it is comparable,” he said, to similar positions in other communities. “It isn’t out of line, in my opinion,” said Baker, adding that the position needs to be approved and filled.

Council President Charlene Hayden said the position’s original title of “Utility Superintendent” was incorrect and should be changed to “Water Supervisor.” Council approved the change, with Hartman opposed. “I don’t think this is a legal vote,” she said, believing that council was not following proper procedures. “You’ve handled the whole thing wrong.”

“That word ‘illegal’ is a very strong word,” said Baker. “Don’t say we did something illegal.” He said a majority council vote took the issue out of committee discussion.

Village Fiscal Officer Vince Popo told council he wanted to clarify the financial issues concerning full-time water department personnel. He said the water operating fund can more than handle the full-time positions, including the $45,000 salary for the water supervisor. However, he said that when village personnel submitted ideas for changing the part-time positions to full-time, “the proposal that we submitted was meant to be a starting point of discussion and not the finished product. I have no idea how it got to the point of legislation in this short period of time,” said Popo. “I believe that $45,000 is a fair wage for the demands and the many different functions that the person in this position will perform.”

Hartman said Popo’s comment about how quickly the legislation make it to council is important to note. She said step increases could be considered for the water supervisor’s position and details still need to be discussed.

Baker said the position had been under consideration for a long time and there was plenty of opportunity to have another finance committee meeting. The legislation had its required three readings. “You had an opportunity, Kaye,” said Baker. Hartman said scheduling finance committee meetings is difficult and more time is needed.

The legislation to create the Water Supervisor’s position was called to a vote and Hartman, Peterson, and Brighton voted against it.

Baler said Tuesday that hiring for the Water Supervisor position now that it’s established is his call, and moving Miller into the position makes sense because he’s already doing the job on a part-time basis and the existing part-time position will be eliminated. “How do we post it when it’s already there?” he said. Baker said in his opinion, the position has had plenty of discussion in committees, the position needs to be filled for the village to operate properly, and he believes it was time to move forward on the legislation.

Hartman said Tuesday that she had every intention of calling another finance committee meeting and, “$45,000 is too much to start any position like that.” She said she’s not against the position or Miller. “Don’t keep referring to Toby,” said Hartman. She said the finance committee met April 16 and decided the job description was vague. It was sent to Personnel and was coming back to Finance before it was derailed Monday night. “I’m very disappointed,” said Hartman.

“This is not a toy, this is a business,” said Peterson Wednesday, referring to the village government. “I’m fed up with the personal agendas. I’ve personally had phone calls in the past telling me how to vote” from people still on council, she said. “I want it all to stop. I’m very upset.” Peterson said some village employees have worked for many years at a low wage and “it’s unconscionable” to start a position at $45,000.

Hayden addressed comments made that Miller is several months delinquent on his own water bill. “Toby uses his account to look into procedures,” she said, adding that his account is used to test the billing system, payment plans, and late fees. Council member Arletta Ruton said it’s not uncommon for water departments to use a “test account” for procedures and the village can’t simply set up a dummy account for experimentation. Popo said council should’ve been informed about Miller’s account, but wasn’t.

“I still think the right decision was made,” said Hayden, referring to council’s approval of the legislation.

In other council news:

• Council did not waive the three reading rule for an ordinance to appropriate an additional $110,000 (from $50,000 to $160,000) for water department equipment expenses. If it is not waived at the next meeting, council members won’t vote on measure until their second meeting in May. Village administration asked council to waive the three reading rule so it could be enacted immediately.

Popo said the village could’ve paid cash for the equipment, but opted for a low interest loan. Peterson wondered why the village would take out a loan when it could have been purchased with cash. Baker said long term financing at a low rate “is the way to go now.”

Popo said Tuesday that the new equipment will last 15 to 20 years and “money is the cheapest you can borrow it” now. To him, it makes more sense to pay for the equipment over time and not empty the water department account by paying cash. Doing so, he said, could left the village short in the event of a water department emergency.

Council continued Monday night not to waive the three reading rule for ordinances.

“I’m sorry about the way things went this evening,” said Hartman Monday night at the conclusion of the contentious council meeting. She’s concerned the tension could cause a rift between the council and administration. “There’s not currently a cooperative relationship between council and administration now,” said Hartman.

• Popo urged residents and businesses to contribute to the village’s “Adopt a Flag” program, which seeks to raise $1,500 to purchase 100 American flags for display by Memorial Day. So far $650 has been raised. Donation forms are available at the Village Office and some local businesses.

• The Buckeye Lake Fire Department is sponsoring a baked steak dinner at the fire station Saturday, May 5, 4 to 7 p.m.

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