Jeannette Council looks to make changes
Jeannette Council has taken the first steps toward creating a city manager position and toward reorganizing government in general.
Council voted 4-1 in favor of asking the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) for technical assistance in establishing financial policies, writing a personnel handbook and starting the city manager selection process. Councilman Bill Bedont was the lone dissenting vote.
Council also voted 3-2 in favor of asking solicitor Scott Avolio to prepare an ordinance that will allow the city to hire a city manager in place of the existing city clerk position. Councilmen Mark Clark and Bedont voted against the measure. Mayor Richard Jacobelli and councilmen Mark Levander and Gabriel Homan voted for it.
Michael Minyon holds the city clerk position now, he was unable to attend last week's meeting.
Increasing the job responsibilities to that of a city manager is something that has been recommended to council since Jeannette first entered the Pre-Act 47 early intervention process with DCED.
Michael Foreman of the DCED, who works with Jeannette on its Pre-Act 47 plans, said the city's move to ask for technical assistance with this potential hire gives him the opportunity to help walk council through an open, fair interview process.
Foreman also recommended that Jeannette not enforce a residency requirement when it comes to hiring a new city manager, as he urged council to open the applications to all those who are qualified. The necessary requirements will be laid out in the city manager ordinance.
Council is also looking for a new city controller. Kathie Tanyer, who served on council last year filling a seat left vacant, ran a write-in campaign for the controller position last fall.
Before running for the position, Tanyer said, she did research on what the job entails and felt she understood what would be expected of her. But soon after taking office, Tanyer said, Minyon and Jacobelli explained to her that during a meeting with city auditors, it was recommended that the controller responsibilities be increased.
“That recommendation included more day-to-day responsibilities which would require the controller to be at city hall more than ever before,” said Tanyer.
Those added tasks added hours to the position that Tanyer, who is retired, wasn't prepared to invest. She baby-sits her grandson often and, in her words, she wasn't willing to give up her retirement in light of the new job responsibilities.
Council is accepting letters of interest in the city controller's position and plans to appoint someone at next month's meeting on April 9.
Councilman Gabriel Homan is also looking into the logistics of eliminating the paid fire department in favor of all volunteer fire services. Such an elimination would require a referendum giving voters a chance to make the choice.
During his investigation, Homan said, he learned that insurance rates will not increase in the city if the department is all volunteer and that if a change is made, the city must go all in. In other words, the department must be all volunteer or all paid, it can't be a combination of the two.
Homan said he also learned that the fire pension fund will have to be paid up to 100 percent before making a move to eliminate the department. In January 2011, Homan said, the fund was 58 percent paid.
If the city switches to volunteer fire service, the difference will have to be paid up in full or the fund will have to be paid up to 70 percent in order for the city to make payments on the remaining 30 percent owed.
Homan said he was still waiting on those numbers to see if its feasible for the city to make those payments before making a move toward putting the issue up for referendum.
Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-838-5154.