By Stephen Wagner
Last Tuesday’s Work Session for the City BOA lasted almost two and a half hours, and that was for the open session. An Executive Session lasted far beyond that. Local government is not for the faint of heart.
The session had two presentations from outside persons, a presentation from Alderman Terry Reed and Alderwoman Rita Aholt, a lively discussion (again) about the City Administrator’s job description followed up by the afore mentioned Executive Session. Although the agenda for the Executive Session has not been released, a discussion on the choice for the Building Inspector open position was moved from the original Work Session and the Special Session was added.
The first presentation was from MOPERM, our insurer for acts and omissions, employee relations (think human resources complaints), and motor vehicle. Unknown to several in attendance, we have an agent that writes our policy with MOPERM, even though MOPERM was created by state statute to serve municipal governments and others such as school districts. Of note was the assertion by the presenters that employee relations, or rather the failure of effective employee relations was the most costly of the areas covered.
As the City’s deductible has risen from $5,000 to $50,000 over the last few years, the trio asserted that the raising of our deductible "…is not punitive but a risk management…" technique. Raising our deductible is supposed to help us better understand and learn how to manage our tort risk.
Next was a very interesting presentation from the Lake Lotawana Fire Protection District Chief Bill Large accompanied by a Blue Valley Electric representative regarding the proposed addition of a siren south of Highway 50. This was a free form discussion that covered a lot of ground including some of the technical aspects of how the weather sirens are activated. Also covered was the options available for the new siren, including solar power and remote diagnostics on the siren itself.
As a result of the back and forth, there evolved a discussion of the overall weather siren situation regarding mostly the age of the sirens and their location. The LLPD has been monitoring and charting weather conditions during the monthly tests providing valuable data to this process. There is additional research that will be completed including a closer assessment of two of the older sirens. Acknowledged was the oncoming tornado season. The new siren has been ordered, and there is still some flexibility as to options. These options and their associated costs will be returned promptly to the City.
Mentioned again was the still in process formalization of a Memorandum of Understanding detailing responsibilities for all those involved. The City is served by three fire districts and the Lake Lotawana Fire District is responsible for a siren at Tarsney Lakes. In the past there has been a "handshake agreement" but that needs to be formalized so that costs are borne by those that benefit.
Alderpersons Reed and Aholt then gave a half hour presentation on a recent visit to a medical testing facility near Liberty. This facility provides job specific testing based on federal guidelines for literally every job known to the US Department of Labor. The test involves a patented proprietary machine that successfully gauges range of motion as well as general strength by the company Mosaic.
Besides eliminating those that might be less than forthcoming with previous medical conditions, it provides a baseline for each employee. If the employee is injured, having this baseline allows not only the City, but Workman’s Comp and the rehabilitation team to have a target for restoring health. There are HIPPA protections in place, and controls on how the candidate’s or employee’s information can be accessed. It was decided that the new City Building Inspector should be tested there.
The Board then discussed at length the duties of the City Administrator. Several times Board members stated that this discussion was not about Jill Cornett, but about others that may follow her. This constructed a difficult hypothetical environment for the Board to discuss this critical position.
Of particular difficulty was the point on hire and fire authority. Even though the City has only twelve employees, the majority of the Aldermen do not want to be involved in that process, with Scott Miles saying at one point that he "didn’t need to know" if the Director of Public Works hired someone, of course with the understanding it was a budgeted hiring.
The Board handled one issue proactively, and that was a discussion regarding an employee discipline incident where there was no Department Head. This will be the case for the Building Inspector. Alderman Falkenberg lobbied for pushing the responsibility upward until an existing management level was reached. A compromise was finally brokered by Chris Jackson after considerable discussion allowing for another Department Head to step in if needed.
One question not entertained was if there is no Department Head, who is writing the monthly reports to the Board. Based on Falkenberg’s assertions, that would fall on the City Administrator.