Wednesday, February 4, 2009

February 3, 2009 Council Meeting

Gene P. spoke for Public Works, and told us that the City is still working with MP&L on the electric service for a home in Buhl. The home owner has found that the power is typically low by about 13 or 14 volts.

The Recreation Board asked for $750 for a winter party called the Winter Frolic. The Council approved this.

The Sheriff told us that the Buhl Squad car is deteriorating, and we will need to purchase a new vehicle soon, most likely before next winter. The cost should be around $27,000. The current vehicle is a 2005 and has nearly 96,000 miles on it.

The Mayor informed everyone that Northland Village is open and taking new residents. Northland Village is an assisted living center located on the south side of Buhl near Hwy 169.

The agenda started with Shari informing the council that she spoke to the Police Chief for Chisholm concerning police protection. Shari had a few discussions with the Police Chief concerning service with their department and what the cost would be. The Chief told Shari that the total cost per year would be about $90,000, although he would need to know exactly what the Sheriff contract consisted of before he could give a specific bid. The Chisholm Chief of Police attended the meeting, but before he came to our meeting, he asked permission from the Chisholm City Council to attend and to come up with a bid package if the City of Buhl requested one.

This was the only real discussion of the meeting, and it ended with a vote to keep the Sheriff Department as the sole provider of Police protection for Buhl. The vote was 3-2 to keep the Sheriff and not accept a bid from Chisholm. Voting for Sheriff only protection was the mayor, Colin G. and Jesse W. Voting against was Shari S. and myself.

My issue was.... lets get as many bids as we can and take the lowest/best bid. In my opinion, nothing could be lost by asking Chisholm to bid on police protection. The Chisholm Chief said that it would be 24/7 service for $90,000/year. We currently pay the Sheriff Department $85,000/year for 40 hours of service. Additionally, we purchase a $25,000 vehicle every 4 years for the Sheriff, and the City of Buhl provides computer and other expensive ancillary equipment for the Sheriff that we would not have to provide to the Chisholm Police.

My point is this.... it is always in the best interest of the public to investigate competitive bids. We should not always accept the lowest bid, be we should always accept the best bid. The Mayor and other two council members decided that Buhl should not accept other bids.

As to the reasons for the vote. Colin G. did state his reasons for his vote, I disagreed with him, but that's ok. At least he told the public his reason for not wanting another bid. Jesse W. had a conflict over what he wanted to say, and what he wanted to state in public. He explained his vote to me in private after the meeting. I still think that we should have accepted a bid, however Jesse's reasons are valid and would have seriously influenced my decision to accept Chisholm as our police provider. The mayor though gave no reason for his vote.

I have been a Union Representative for 15 years. In that time, I have learned that you should never enter negotiations with a position on the subject. You should only have issues that need to be resolved. Our mayor always has a position, but rarely is open to discuss the issues. I'll continue to work on him.

Next we reviewed the 2008 budget and found that there was $12,404 left over at the end of 2008. Thanks to Mary, Mike and the whole City of Buhl crew, we once again ended the year with some money left over. If you see any of the crew, thank them for not over spending taxpayer money.

We briefly talked about the 2009 budget, and I have no reason to think that we will over spend in 2009.

We next talked about SWOP, the Summer Work Outreach Project. In the past, Buhl has given SWOP $500/year to do work around Buhl. For 2009, due to the current budget issues, we voted against giving money to SWOP.

Next we voted against giving money to the Chisholm, Buhl, Balken Summer Recreation program. Previously, we gave $1200/year to this program. A few years ago 8 or more Buhl children would attend this program. But last year only two attended daily. We decided that the money would be better spent on Buhl's summer rec program, if it is spent at all.

We did get some comments on the police issue from a concerned citizen, but the comments were after the vote, so there was no impact to the vote from this citizen.

Let me know what you think.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Buhl Personnel Policy and Salary Structure

I am currently working on the Buhl Personnel Policy and Salary Structure. Three years ago the Council decided that Buhl needed a written personnel policy, and Shari and I volunteered to work on it. The draft of that policy, along with a new salary structure and pay plan has been given to the City Council. It is available to anyone that wants to see it at Buhl City Hall, or email me and I'll send you a soft copy of the current draft versions.

The personnel policy is needed to protect the employees and their benefits, along with protecting the City from potential litigation. After working on the policy for some time, we found that we couldn't complete it without incorporating a more formal structured pay policy. This structure will allow the City to place a new employee within a salary area, and will allow the employee the chance to move to a higher pay area after the employee meets certain conditions. This salary structure/pay plan will give the City a greater degree of flexibility when dealing with employee's salary.

Please give me any comments that you may have.