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Town Council Tentatively Approves Raise For Employees

North Manchester News-Journal of North Manchester, Indiana

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Town Council wrestled with the decision to give town employees a two percent raise during the November 4 meeting, with members tentatively deciding in favor of the raise. They may still decide to nix them before the end of the year.

It was during the vote on the salary ordinance, which included the two percent raise, that council member Jim Smith proposed an amendment to cut them to zero.

"I want to be clear, the employees of the town are doing a heck of a job. However, I feel this not the time to increase wages across the board when so many of our constituents have either lost their jobs, or taken cuts in pay. Many businesses in our community have had to close their doors recently and many business owners have realized a loss of income because customers are spending less. I don'tthink we should set the example thatthe town government and town employees are above all that," Smith said.

Council member Laura Rager disagreed, citing Wabash City and Rochester as other communities that are giving wage increases despite the tough economy, and the fact that North Manchester employees are not the top of the pay scales for their positions.

"I would hate to have us get to the point where the police department was a few years ago, that we were spending all of our money, time, efforts training people so they could go get a job some place else as soon as they had the credentials. The [superintendent of public works] has more certi-fied employees on staff than ever before and they are ripe for the picking," Rager said.

Smith replied, "For every town you can find that's doing an increase you can find one that isn't or is laying off employees. This isn't the time."

Council President Chris Garber questioned whether the increases should be considered raises or cost of living increases, and supported the two percent increase.

Council member Tom Dale disagreed, saying, "A cost of living adjustment would be zero, or less than zero, because that's what Social Security is giving this year. We've got terrific employees, and I'd love it to be five percent raise, but I'm not sure we can even afford the two percent."

Another issue before the council was that town employees are facing large increases for their health insurance premiums in 2010.

Rager said, "It seems even more prudentto give them a little more money in their pockets, not knowing how big a change its going to be, to help them offset that."

Smith and Dale disagreed, and proposed that they review the entire compensation package once they have more information on the insurance increases, and possibly contribute more to the premiums instead of a wage increase.

In the end, Diane Haupert, Rager, and Garber overturned the amendment supported by Smith and Dale. Smith then moved to vote for the original ordinance.

"If [the amendment] isn't going to carry the day, then it's important for everyone to know we do support the salary ordinance," Smith said.

Garber said, 'This is first reading. We have two more readings after tonight, and we can amend this at any point when we get better info on the insurance."

Town Manager Dan Hannaford commented, "If we had to go with the insurance figures we have today, I wouldn't vote for a raise, because you're looking at a 25-28 percent increase; that's a raise right there. We'll know before the December meeting where these insurance costs are going to come in, so you can make a better decision."

Council voted unanimously in favor of the salary ordinance, G.O. #4. The second reading is scheduled for December 2 and the final reading December 16.

In other neWs, town council declined to sign off on the "substantial completion" of the newwater plant at the request of Superintendent of Public Works John Mugford, who wants to see a punch list of remaining small items completed first.

The town is retaining five percent of the remainder due to the two contractors total-ing $100,000 and $20,000 eachuntil the list is complete.,

Apparently, a small portion of the cement blocks used to build the walls of the water plant have been recalled by the manufacturer and need to be treated to seal a number of holes in the block. Mugford said that it's between the manufacturer and one of the contractors as to who will be paying for the treatments.

Water has been flowing through the new water plant for the past month, and a power outage November 3 tested the new generator.

Council discussed complaints from one neighbor about the noise level of the generator when it's in use. Mugford said that they have to run the generator once a month for forty minutes, as well as when power is out.

Engineer Ken Smith, present at the meeting, advised raising the stack an-otherfour feet, which should reduce the noise level from 87 decibels to 77. Garber questioned the visual appeal of the large machine, and Rager suggested enclosing the generator with a staggered brickwall. The wall would help further muffle the noise and openings between every-other brick would still allow heat to escape.

Smith said that he would submit a sketch for the proposed wall.

Mugford reported that they would be separating the stormwater from the sewage system on Front Street. A bid from Eads & Sons for $27,895 was approved as the lowest of six bids. Repairs on the Grossnickle Ditch by the county are being held up by funding difficulties. According to

Mugford, it's taking the county some time to get income surveys completed in order to apply for grants to fund the $1 million project.

Mugford reported that 443,000 gallons of sludge was hauled out to ground by the south water tower at the cost of $20,000;, to bag up and send away the sludge would have cost double that.

Town Council approved by consensus the collection of bids for a new backhoe to replace a 1994 backhoe used by the water, sewer, and street departments. Finally, Mugford reported that leaf pickup has been slow going. He hopes to be finished by Thanksgiving.

Parks Director Anne Myers reported that wireless internet is up and running at Warvel Park. During the P&R Board's October 28 meeting, P&R President Weebe Naragon reported that a Leadership Team is being invited to participate in the fundraising campaign for a new pool. Training will be provided to all volunteers.

Building Commissioner Bernie Ferringer noted that the zoning-commission recently issued the first building permit for a new house in quite some time. Hannaford noted that residents would soon be receiving surveys for the 2010 census. Every household will receive a form with the request to mail it back in. If the form isn't mailed in, they are likelyto seeacensus worker at their doorstep next spring.

Town council will meet twice in December, on the 2nd at 7 p.m. and the 16th at 5:30 p.m. in the Public Safety Complex.



Copyright 2009 North Manchester News-Journal, North Manchester, Indiana. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: November 11, 2009



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