The Leachville City Council opened a new police department position, discussed retirement and advanced vacation pay at the regular city council meeting Monday, Aug. 10.
The council voted to open a 26-hour police department position to provide necessary coverage, splitting hours between one or more officers at $8 per hour.
A decision about payment of police retirement was tabled last month and reopened for discussion by the council.
The cost for three full time and one part time officer will be $2,923.60.
"I feel the city should absorb this cost for police retirement, as they were hired in at a certain rate and now it will be changed," Mayor Sheila Spurlock said. "I hate to go back on our word. Any new officers will be hired with the understanding they have to contribute to retirement. "
"This is a bad situation," Alderman Bruce Wilson said. "When we make a budget and we don't stick with it, then we are going right back to where we started."
"This money has already been budgeted for police," Spurlock said. "They have saved money this year by renting uniforms instead of us buying them."
"At the end of the year if the department has money left over then we could bonus it back to them," Wilson said. "We have not budgeted to pay for this percentage of police retirement. Are we going to consider absorbing the new two and a half percent retirement, that is being taken out of their pay check, from now on?"
"If we absorb this two and a half percent it will be like giving them a raise," Alderman Bill Hetler said.
"We are going to have more state projects cut," Alderman Tommy Stone said.
"When it goes to a contributory account then it should be optional," Wilson said.
"They (the officers) have never had to contribute to it before," Spurlock said.
After a short break Wilson calculated what the difference would be for the Police Department budget for 2009 if the city absorbed the two and a half percent of the police retirement.
"It will only be an overage of $464 for all four officers, if the city pays it for the remainder of this year," Wilson said. "Sooner or later we have to put a stop to what the city has to pay."
After a lengthy discussion the council voted 4-2 to cover the police retirement payments for 2009 and then evaluate the situation for the 2010 budget. Aldermen Hetler and Stone voted against the motion.
Alderman Stone inquired about advanced vacation pay for employees.
"Why can't they get their pay before they go on vacation instead of having to wait until they get back?" Stone said. "What is the difference between paying them for their vacation time like they do when they quit? It is still advanced payment."
"They have already earned their money," Wilson said. "It is just a cash flow situation."
City Clerk Ruth Ann Keith agreed to check on the matter with the city auditor.
In other business the council voted to add working lights to the new fire truck at a cost of $1,374, and add the amount to the lease purchase agreement.
New breathing equipment was purchased for the firemen. Two were added this month and two more when new fire truck arrives.
Five new tires were purchased for the Street Department dump truck at $195 each. The department will also repair bush hog and lawn mowers this month.
The new Water Department truck is due for delivery by the end of August.
Rural Water has assessed pumps for wastewater under federal assistance.
Paula Bowen reported the Watermelon Festival was very successful, with $410 earned on booth rentals, and $448 repaid to the city for tee shirt order.
Mayor Spurlock discussed alternating terms of office for aldermen, with Position 1 for four years and Position 2 for two years. There would be all new four-year terms. The decision was tabled until the September meeting.
The next regularly scheduled council meeting will be 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14, at City Hall.