The Whitesburg City Council updated and revised several city ordinances at its November meeting Tuesday night in an effort to comply with new state laws and to accommodate personnel needs.
The council voted unanimously to direct City Attorney James Asher to change the personnel ordinance to separate the duties of the city clerk and bookkeeper/treasurer and to extend vacation for city employees to up to four weeks to honor a verbal agreement made with city employees several years ago.
Mayor James Wiley Craft explained that because of the increased duties that will fall to the bookkeeper/treasurer as a result of the city’s new occupational tax, the city clerk, which Craft said is an overwhelming position in its own right, would be swamped by the new duties. The council voted to separate the offices and to create the new administrative assistant position of bookkeeper/treasurer.
The council also voted unanimously to give the mayor the authority to purchase new accounting software to accommodate the needs of the city in light of the new tax. Craft told the council the current accounting software is outdated and will not perform at the level necessary to handle revenues from the new tax. Craft said that when the city examines proposals for a new accounting package, he would like to have a program that will create monthly reports with ease.
The council also voted to allow the city attorney to draft changes in the personnel policy to institutionalize an agreement to allow for city employees to have four weeks of vacation. Mayor Craft explained that when he took office an examination of city accounts showed that the practice of paying the entire cost of health insurance for family members of city employees, which he estimated at $75,000, was unsustainable. Craft said that as compensation for no longer paying for family insurance, he had agreed to add one week per year of vacation to city employees for a maximum of four weeks per year. He said the personnel policy was never changed to accommodate the agreement and asked the council to correct the oversight.
The council also heard the first reading of a summary of amendments to the city’s Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) ordinance that will bring the city into compliance with recently enacted changes to state law.
City Attorney Asher said the changes will include the re-definition and consolidation of license definitions, which changed the statewide number of possible license definitions from 88 to 44. Asher said that none of the new definitions would affect the three licensing categories currently in use in Whitesburg. The new ordinance will also accommodate a change in training. The new law specifies that training programs for servers be state-approved rather than city-approved.
In other business, the council voted to make changes in the 1st Source Bank lease agreement for the city’s garbage truck that will allow for lower payments and a slightly longer payment period. Craft said this will help the city in its current economic situation.
Water Dept. Maintenance Director Chris Caudill presented the council with two lists, one that covers future needs for the city water and sewer system and another that lists items that are necessary to address as soon as possible. At the top of the as-soon-as-possible list is replacing the line at the Kentucky River/Craft’s Colly Creek crossing that has placed water customers in Mayking in jeopardy of losing their water.
Other immediate needs include variable frequency drives for two pump stations that protect the pumps from overload in start-up, as well as other necessary repairs on city systems. Caudill also told the council that two fire hydrants are down after being hit by cars and asked that a series of three hydrants in Cowan be changed to two because one of the three has been hit several times and all are within 700 feet of each other. The council authorized the request, and Craft said he will work on the lists, which he called astronomical pricewise.
In his own report, Craft asked the council to tentatively approve a fundraising “Turkey Trot Run” November 23, providing the time could be set so as not interfere with business for city merchants when streets are closed for the run. Craft said there had been some complaints from merchants about closing streets for a previous run.
Craft also praised Police Chief Tyrone Fields for a recent program Fields conducted to educate citizens on how to keep themselves safe. Fields told the council citizens should not hesitate to report suspicious activity when they observe it.
Craft also told the council the city’s books will be turned over to its auditor by the end of the week in order to get the auditing process up to date. He also announced that Food City has applied for a permit to expand its store, adding that the southwestern Virginia-based company intends to install a new seafood section in its Whitesburg store.
Councilman John Williams spoke on behalf of blue bag recycling and said that with tipping (dump) fees at landfills going up, it would save the city a good deal of money if citizens would participate in the blue bag recycling program.