Manila Council members worked through the last meeting of the year on Monday night, Dec. 19, hearing a report from Manila Fire Chief Jerry Hitchcock, making budget amendments, establishing city employee holidays, discussing annexation and storm detector radios. All council members were present.
Fire Chief Hitchcock presented a report based on 47 weeks of the year. He said since the report, the Manila Fire Department had answered three fires, two structural and one grass fire.
Hitchcock said earlier in the year there were 23 firefighters on the roll but the number has dropped to 20. He said they would like to continue to add to the numbers until it reaches 25 or more.
"The committee has met and they would like the council to consider giving us six months in 2006 on the evaluation process of the firemen," Hitchcock said. "That will give us a year since the council passed the evaluation resolution. That will also give us the opportunity to see if we can get the call numbers and meeting numbers up."
Hitchcock said they had talked to other fire departments and they meet twice a month and only one is required. The Manila firemen meet once a week.
"We talked about it (changing the meeting times) and it was about 50/50 to change it," Hitchcock said.
He went on to say their target is 40 percent.
"We have at least seven below the target and we will work with them," Hitchcock said. "We have a good group of firemen. Like everything else, we get a little slack and there is always room for improvement."
Council member Dwight Booth said he thought it was a good idea to give them the extension. Mayor Veach and Council agreed on the six month evaluation extension.
"This (evaluation resolution) was not a popular thing but I think it will work out," Hitchcock said.
Before leaving, Hitchcock asked the council to consider compensation for assistant chiefs training officers and captains in the fire department. He said he would have a recommendation to the council at a later date. Presently only the fire chief receives $100 and the secretary $35 compensation.
"I think we are on the right track and I agree to give them another six months to evaluate themselves," Mayor Veach said. "We've gone from 21 to 17 firemen on the insurance this last year. I recommend we go ahead and pay their insurance for another six months even though it is going up $33.33 more each month. I agree with him (Hitchcock) we have a lot of good people on the fire department."
The council voted unanimously to accept the report, give the six month extension and continue paying the insurance for six months.
Veach reviewed the budget comparison for the year commenting most accounts are in good shape but several would need to be amended. In 2006 the city will be making sizable payments on the water and sewer projects recently completed. He pointed out a considerable amount had been spent in the street fund, the water amendment is due to the end of the water project, and the airport amendment is because of grant money.
The budget Ordinance 2005-02 passed with the following amendments for expenditures:
General Account which includes the animal control $18,000; Fire Department $118,000; Street Department $225,000; Water Department $333,000; Airport Department, $470,000; Act 833 $12,000; Water Improvement Sales Tax Fund $23,000; and Sewer Expansion Sales Tax Fund $115,000.
Mayor Veach told council members he had spent a lot of time on the telephone about the purchasing of weather radios. He said he had talked to three different companies and it looked as if the radios will cost about $27 each.
"If we were to purchase radios at that price and give our citizens a break of maybe 50 percent, it would be feasible," Veach said.
He also said one small outside weather siren would cost about $18,000.
Councilman Booth said the reason so many citizens in Indiana were injured by recent tornadoes was because they were asleep and did not hear the outside sirens in their home.
Councilman Leroy Douglas agreed, saying he thought the weather radios would be more effective for the residents than an outside siren.
"It is less money and seems it will work better, too," Douglas said.
Mayor Veach said he would have more information on the weather radios at the next meeting.
City Attorney Wayne Wagner updated the council on the annexation.
"We have had a couple bumps in the road, but I'm sure all of those have been worked out," Wagner said.
Wagner said the paperwork would be filed in January and the council would need to pass a resolution approving the annexation in February.
Wagner said once passed, the county clerk's office will send out notification of any precinct changes to those voters affected by the annexation.
"With the annexation west of town, you (council members) may want to look at making adjustments to the lines due to population," Wagner said.
"We have an obligation as a city government by law to keep the representation as equal as possible," Mayor Veach said.
The council voted on a list of holidays to be observed by the city employees including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day and the day after, New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veteran's Day, Independence Day, Dr. Martin Luther King Day, and George Washington Day.
Mayor Veach informed the council the city is in possession of the deed to the medical building next to the nursing home. He said he would be talking to the present tenant to see if they are interested in expanding their operation. The name of the street is TLC.
"I would like to wish everyone in Manila a Merry Christmas on behalf of the city government and hope to have a good next year and meet their needs," Veach said. "I've never experienced a year like this one. It has been one of the quietest years I've ever experienced. I couldn't ask for better cooperation from the city council."