Wednesday, August 31, 2011

City council to consider audit at Tuesday meeting

The city audit for the 2010-11 fiscal year, and final changes to last year's budget to reflect actual spending, are on the agenda for the next meeting of the Midway City Council. It will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 6 at City Hall, a day later than usual because of Labor Day.

Also on the agenda is a funding request from the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, to be presented by new Chair Brad McLean.

Though the meeting will be held a day later than usual, the notice from City Hall has the usual advisory that "Anyone wishing to address the council must request to be on the agenda and submit any information by ... noon the Wednesday before."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Council approves incentive pay on 3-2 vote

By Dick Yarmy and Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

After debating the issue a second time, the Midway City Council voted last Monday night to give escalating incentive pay to council members, the mayor, the city clerk and the assistant clerk for receiving 15 hours of annual training on topics related to their official responsibilities.

The vote was 3-2, with Council Members Aaron Hamilton, Doris Leigh and Sharon Turner supporting the proposal by Mayor Tom Bozarth, and Becky Moore and Dan Roller opposing it. Member Joy Arnold, who had been skeptical of the plan at the Aug. 1 meeting, was absent due to a death in her family. If there had been a tie vote, Bozarth could have voted to break the tie.

To support his initiative, Bozarth introduced James Chaney, chief governmental affairs officer of the Kentucky League of Cities. KLC will offer the training under a bill that it and state Rep. Carl Rollins of Midway got passed in the 2011 General Assembly. Cheney mentioned Rollins’ dismay that 50 to 60 percent of the 2,600 city officials in Kentucky receive no training.

Moore said the bill appeared self-serving for KLC, but Chaney said cities can award incentives for training from other accredited sources. The bill does not mention accreditation or providers.

Moore, who preceded Bozarth as mayor, asked, “If we’re going to incentivize training of city clerks, why not water plant workers and others?” She suggested the vote be delayed while a “policy statement” is drafted to ensure future leaders administer the program consistently, but made no motion to that effect.

Roller’s objections were budget-focused. He said an annual outlay of $18,000 (which would be the total in the fourth year if all eligible officials took the training each year) was excessive, and noted that Bozarth had not taken the plan to the council's Ordinance and Policy Committee. Roller read a prepared statement for the record, and Moore asked that her request for a policy statement be included in the minutes of the meeting. For a PDF of Roller's statement, click here.

In other action, the council approved tax rates for the coming year, as described at the Aug. 1 meeting. After the meeting, just as they did two weeks earlier, Bozarth and his allies walked down East Main Street, while Roller and Moore walked up South Winter Street.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Water & Sewer Task Force meets at noon today

The Midway Water and Sewer Task Force will meet at noon today in the Piper Dining Hall on the Midway College Campus. Meetings of the task force are open to the public.

We regret that this notice was not posted yesterday, when we received it. Since the task force does not have a regular meeting schedule, all its meetings are considered special meetings, which have a limited agenda. However, the only agenda item, "Water and Sewer Issues," is broad enough to allow discussion of any topic related to the task force's purview.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Council plans second and final readings Monday of ordinances on tax rates, training incentive pay

The tentative agenda for the next meeting of the Midway City Council, Aug. 15, is much the same as the agenda of the last meeting, because the major business is second readings and adoption of three ordinances: two setting tax rates and the other creating pay incentives for the mayor, clerks and council members to take annual training related to city government.

The proposed tax rates are the compensating rates, those that the state says will generate the same amount of revenue being generated by current rates. The personal-property rate would remain the same, 14.5 cents per $100, while the real-estate rate would rise to 10.2 cents from 10.1 cents per $100 in order to make up for a decline in the total assessed value of real estate in the city.

See the blog item after the one below for a report on the council's discussion of the training incentive program.

The meeting notice from City Hall says anyone wishing to address the council must request to be on the agenda and submit any information by noon the Wednesday before the meeting.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Farmers Market and Midway restaurants team up to hold special event Friday evening, Aug. 19

In an effort to promote more local use of local food, the Woodford County Farmers Market and six Midway restaurants are cooperating to hold a special event Friday evening, Aug. 19, from 6 to 9 p.m. The Midway City Council approved a permit for the event tonight.

The market's Stacy Westfall told the council that farmers will offer samples of their products, and provide free samples to restaurants to prepare special offierings. She said two or three wineries are interested in participating, and the event may be ticketed.

The farmers market comes to Midway each Monday from 3 to 6 p.m. For the farmers market's Facebook page, click here.

Mayor and ex-mayor turned council member are at odds over incentive pay, meetings, emails

By Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Amid talk of such big issues as tax rates and officials' compensation, the main action at tonight's Midway City Council meeting was between Mayor Tom Bozarth and Council Member Becky Moore, who preceded him as mayor and was elected to the council last year.

The council gave first reading to three ordinances, two to set property-tax rates (only the real-estate rate would change, rising 0.1 cent per $100, to 10.2 cents producing the same revenue as last year due to declines in property values) and one to create an incentive program that would give city officials accelerated compensation for receiving 15 hours of annual training from the Kentucky League of Cities.

After the council spent some time addressing Council Member Joy Arnold's concerns that the incentive schedule needed clarification, Moore said she wanted to make clear that council members make only $50 a month ($600 a year) and would not consider raising that salary, but would be able get $5,000 apiece in incentive pay over four consecutive years of training.

The incentives would be $500 for the first year of training, $1,000 for the second and $1,500 for the third. If all six council members received training each year for four years, the total cost in the fourth year would be $12,000. The ordinance says the payments would not be considered wages; Bozarth said after the meeting that is so they would not count toward retirement benefits; he said they will be taxable. (An early version of this story said otherwise.)

Moore said the council needs to make sure the money is in the budget. Bozarth said the money for next year is in the budget, the training would be voluntary, and "This is to be an incentive . . . to be more informed. We're all volunteers." City Attorney Phil Moloney said later that trained officials are less likely to get the city into costly trouble.

Bozarth said any mayor needing to cut expenses would cut the program. The ordinance would give the mayor the authority to approve city officials for training. Moore said that approval should also be up to the council. Bozarth said, "I don't see what the problem is." Moore said her request was not aimed at him, but made out of a desire for the council to keep tabs on spending.

Arnold said she could envision some future mayor ("she or he," she said) showing favoritism, approving one council member's training but not another's. Arnold, a lawyer, said she would rather have "regulatory language" on the mayor's power than have joint mayoral-council approval. But neither Arnold nor Moore made a motion to amend the ordinance, and it was accepted for first reading. Presumably, second reading will be held at the next meeting, on Aug. 15.

At the start of the meeting, as the council prepared to approve the minutes of the last meeting, Moore asked that minutes of future meetings reflect more of the council's discussions. Bozarth told her that the minutes are only required to reflect council action, but if she wants something in them, all she has to do is ask.

Moore did just that at the end of the meeting, after saying she finds it "weird" that council committees have met infrequently since she joined the council and Bozarth reorganized them. Bozarth replied, "There are some issues that are easier to take to the whole council." Moore expressed concern about business being conducted outside the committee system. With a committee meeting on the incentive plan, she said, "I think we would have had a lot of these questions answered." She asked that her concern appear in the minutes.

The discussion prompted Council Member Doris Leigh to give an informal report about her work as chair of the Cemetery and City Property Committee, the only panel to which Bozarth appointed Moore. Moore replied to Leigh, "I don't know what you're doing, and I'm on your committee."

Last week, after getting the preliminary agenda for the meeting in an email from City Clerk Phyllis Hudson, Moore sent two replies to all recipients, asking that three items be added to the agenda: a report on Fiscal Court redistricting, an economic-development report and discussion of points made by citizens at a forum the council held in May. For more on that, click here. As last night's meeting was about to end, Moore said, "Some of my e-mails were not getting answered," and after adjournment she directed a similar comment to Bozarth. The mayor threw up his hands and said, "I'm not getting into it."

Interviewed by email, Bozarth told the Midway Messenger that he set the agenda for the meeting, and "I had already addressed her requests with the agenda that was in place." He said "everything Ms. Moore had concerns with were fully addressed." The council heard a report from Chairman Brad McLean of the Woodford County Economic Development Authority, and Bozarth and Arnold agreed during the meeting that the public's May comments would be discussed at the next meeting. Bozarth said in his email that redistricting will be discussed "when that is approved by the court."