VERGENNES EMERGENCY CITY COUNCIL MEETING
FEBRUARY 13, 2020
Mayor Jeff Fritz called the emergency meeting to order at 5:00 p.m. in the conference room at City Hall. Those in attendance were:
Mayor Jeff Fritz Alderman David Small (via speaker phone)
Deputy Mayor Lynn Donnelly City Manager Daniel Hofman
Alderman David Austin Tim Cook
Alderman Mark Koenig
RECREATION COORDINATOR: City Manager Hofman stated there was an article that was released by the Addison Independent. He stated that at the last meeting, Council gave him the authority to appoint a recreation coordinator. He stated that he was still in the process of identifying where the funds were going to come from and what type of offer he was going to make prior to the Addison Independent printing an article stating that the individual was hired. The individual reached out stating that she felt obligated to give a two week notice at her current job because of the article and that she is looking to start the recreation coordinator position on March 9th.
City Manager Hofman stated that he emailed everyone about the proposed use of Watershed funds for this position, however, if this was to be used, the Watershed Fund policy would have to be amended to allow for personnel costs. He stated that he has had some mixed reviews from Council for amending the policy.
City Manager Hofman handed out a breakdown of the General Fund recreation line item. He stated that the recreation General Fund line item began with $11,500. Year to date, $5,945 has been used. He stated that last year, $1,600 was spent in June, and that this is the only forecasted expense that will be needed in the remainder of the year. He stated that this leaves this line item with $3,800. He stated that if the City were to hire this individual at $21 per hours at 10 hours per week, for the remainder of the year, this will equate to $3,600, which will keep us within budget. City Manager Hofman stated that Kim Buckley, the candidate, is requesting 25 hours per week. He stated that there are two options: (1) amend the Watershed policy and take personnel expenses out of the Watershed Fund, or (2) make it work in the recreation line item. He stated that he believes that he can get the position in next years’ budget, but that is 4 months away.
Mayor Fritz asked when the candidate asked for the 25 hours per week. City Manager Hofman stated today; to maintain benefits. Tim Cook stated that the candidate stated that 20 hours would work in her interview. City Manager Hofman stated that he is skeptical to start out a position at such a high number of hours in a week when he does not completely know what the job entails because it is a brand new position. Alderman Koenig asked if 25 hours per week would require the City to give benefits. City Manager Hofman responded no, and the threshold for benefits is 30 hours. Alderman Small stated that that sounds like a high number of hours for a position that we do not really know about right now. Alderman Austin stated he agreed even though this will be a position that the candidate will build. Alderman Koenig asked if she needed a contract to show how many hours she works. He asked is we can give her a certain amount of hours for the remainder of the fiscal year and she can allocate the hours per week as she chooses, in part, to maintain her benefits. City Manager Hofman and Alderman Austin acknowledged that this is a great idea. City Manager stated that this equates to 160 hours remaining in the fiscal year and there may be more of a need in the hotter months for hours used.
Tim Cook stated that we assumed that this position would have hours that vary from week to week. City Manager Hofman handed out sections of minutes from last summer.
June 11, 2019 minutes: Tim Cook stated “[t]hey would also like to hire a part-time coordinator who will attend a lot of meetings and get a handle on what’s already out there in the first year. They are asking for $15,000 that will cover 11.25 hour work-week at $25 an hour.”
June 28, 2019 minutes: “Deputy Mayor Donnelly advised with a $91,000 Fund Balance there is no need for a reduction in police officers if we use $50,000 of that surplus and take $13,000 from the Watershed Fund for the recreation position and leave the $72,500 for the police station bond coming from the Water Tower Fund…. She also suggested $13,500 be taken from the Watershed Fund to be used towards a portion of the cost of the new recreation director position.:
July 23, 2019 minutes: “[Matt Chabot] appropriated $13,500 from the Watershed Fund to be used to offset the cost of a new recreation director position.”
City Manager Hofman stated that the Watershed policy explicitly stated that the Council shall approve expenses from the Watershed Fund and he could not find where Council approved this appropriation. He stated that Council would have to amend the policy and approve the expense.
Alderman Small stated he feels on the defensive. He stated that it is unfortunate that is was printed in the paper but 10 hours a week sounds much more appropriate. Mayor Fritz stated that he thought that the Watershed Fund usage was approved. Deputy Mayor Donnelly stated that it was a budget workshop. Alderman Koenig stated that he thought that the Watershed fund was a temporary fix.
Alderman Koenig and Deputy Mayor Donnelly asked if we can loan ourselves the money out of the Water Tower Fund. Alderman Austin stated that we just do not know what the position is going to require per week for hours. City Manager Hofman stated that there is money in the recreation line item to start off with right now. He stated that he does not know what the job entails and wants to start from the bottom up for number of hours; not the other way around.
Mayor Fritz asked if Council could formally approve the use of $13,500 from the Watershed fund for the position. City Manager Hofman stated that the Watershed Fund policy would have to be amended. Alderman Austin stated that they have received pushback for administrative costs rather than capital projects. Alderman Austin and Deputy Mayor Donnelly stated they were against amending the policy.
Alderman Koenig and Deputy Mayor Donnelly suggested reallocating existing general fund recreation expenses to the Watershed fund to have more money in the General Fund for this position.
City Manager Hofman asked how many hours do we want this position to be. We need to figure that out and then all other capital funds for recreation can come out the Watershed fund. He stated that right now, we have the funds for 10 hours per week.
Alderman Austin asked Tim Cook, what he wants this position to do. Tim stated that this position would network and plan events. Deputy Mayor Donnelly stated that the position would create programs. Mayor Fritz asked if 10 hours per week is enough. Alderman Austin stated that we want this person to succeed and we want to set this person up for success. Alderman Koenig stated that we should structure it by hours per month. Alderman Austin asked if we know what the goals for this position are. Tim stated that the recreation committee established goals in a meeting. Deputy Mayor Donnelly asked if City Manager Hofman foresees any surplus in the budget. City Manager Hofman stated that if there is a surplus in another department, and if you want to move extra funds to another department, then a budget amendment must be done.
Deputy Mayor Donnelly asked about deficit spending. Alderman Austin and Koenig disagreed. Mayor Fritz asked if we could do a month to month agreement, and then review the budget and the candidate’s performance. City Manager Hofman stated that she is going to need a lot of hours in the beginning, but that he likes the idea of a set number of hours for the year. He stated he could write an offer letter to that effect. Mayor Fritz stated that that setup will encourage her to find another part-time position to maintain her hours for coverage. Deputy Mayor Donnelly stated that she is against changing the Watershed Fund Policy, and that the fund was established before her time for a specific purpose. City Manager Hofman stated that there is $350,000 in the fund accruing interest, and the interest can be spent.
Mayor Fritz asked where is the $13,500 located. City Manager Hofman stated that it doesn’t exist. Alderman Koenig asked if City Manager Hofman can talk with Matt Chabot to find out what he meant in the minutes from July 23, 2019. City Manager Hofman stated that he originally saw a problem with funding the position from the general fund when making ice rink purchases and notified Tim Cook. He stated that Matt Chabot reached out to him and stated that it would come out of the Watershed Fund. He stated, however, the policy has to be changed to do so.
Alderman Koenig asked if the Bambini and the hockey goals were paid through the Watershed Fund. City Manager Hofman stated they were not. He stated that if those expenses were moved to the Watershed Fund, it would get the hours per week for the recreation coordinator position up to 15 hours per week most likely. Mayor Fritz stated that we should move expenses that were already incurred to the Watershed Fund. In addition, he asked for the motion to offer her 160 hours through the end of the fiscal year.
Alderman Koenig stated that if you move expenses to the Watershed und, then the offer can be higher than 160 hours. Deputy Mayor Donnelly reminded that the majority of the work from the recreation coordinator would need to occur in the summer. Alderman Small stated that this situation may not leave a lot of confidence in the candidate and the candidate may not take the job. City Manager Hofman stated that you can make the same argument if you make the best offer because the City has gone back and forth regardless. Alderman Small stated that he likes the idea of moving funds from the general fund to the Watershed Fund to free space for this position, however, if we cannot confidently say that this job will be in the budget, then that is irresponsible. Mayor Fritz asked how much the job would be for a year at 25 hours. City Manager Hofman stated $30,000. Alderman Small stated that the candidate seems great but the request for a number of hours does not seem right. City Manager Hofman stated that these are all good faith negotiations and that he is fine having those conversations about the number of hours with a candidate, however, the Addison Independent article threw this all out of wack.
Deputy Mayor Donnelly stated that when we originally talked about the position, it would be at 10 hours a week. City Manager Hofman confirmed that this was in fact consistent with the minutes from last summer. He continued that he explained to the candidates that this is a position that you, as a candidate, could build into something if ambitious enough. Alderman Austin suggested throwing a dollar figure out as an offer, like a salary. He stated, if he was a candidate, he would establish his value with the organization. City Manager Hofman stated that he is not 100% certain that this will be in the budget, but he is 99% certain. He continued that he does not know what tomorrow will bring and the budget is 4 months away.
Alderman Koenig stated that we have been talking about this position for a long time and if we’re going to have a sustainable recreation department, we must give the person the time and space to do that. He stated that we need to find the money to make her the best offer. Alderman Koenig stated that we need to make this happen. He stated that if we do not make this happen we should stop pretending that we’re the best little city and that we are just going to exist. Alderman Austin stated that we need someone to be successful or we do not need the position because we cannot afford to waste money for nothing.
Alderman Koenig asked how much money could be moved from the recreation general fund line item. City Manager Hofman stated that the Bambini was $1,500 and there was a light installation that can be moved, which probably totals around $2,000. He stated that this would increase the hours to 15 per week possibly
Mayor Fritz stated that we can all probably agree that we will never be able to afford 25 hours per week. Alderman Koenig stated that if we can get the offer to have increased hours, at like 15-17 hours per week, that would be preferable. City Manager Hofman stated that all governments are fiscally constrained and there is no problem in making an offer stating this is what we have. Alderman Koenig agreed and added that we should try to maximize the hours/offer. He stated that we should give her a lump sum of hours for the rest of the year. Alderman Austin stated that she sounds like a go-getter that would understand this dynamic. Tim Cook stated that the candidate experienced defunding failures at a prior place of employment, which would help her be motivated even more to find funding.
Alderman Koenig asked what City Manager Hofman needs from the Council. City Manager Hofman stated that he would need action from the Council only if the decision was to use the Watershed Fund for the candidate’s salary. He stated that he will work to maximize her hours in the general fund, and he does not need any action at the moment. Mayor Fritz stated that City Manager Hofman should bring before the next Council Meeting what needs to be reallocated to the Watershed Fund from the General Fund recreation line item. City Manager Hofman agreed and stated that he currently sees the Bambini for $1,400 and Glen Peck Electric for $1,100 that can be moved to the Watershed Fund. He stated that he will then make the candidate the best offer of aggregate hours for the rest of fiscal year. Mayor Fritz, Deputy Mayor Donnelly, Alderman Small, Alderman Austin, and Alderman Koenig all agreed this is a good idea.
Mayor Fritz asked for a motion to adjourn. Alderman Koenig made a motion to adjourn. Alderman Austin seconded to motion. Deputy Mayor Donnelly asked if City Manager Hofman needed any other action. Multiple individuals stated that he did not. Tim Cook apologized for his role in getting us in the position and thanked everyone for their help. Alderman Austin stated that this was great team work in coming together tonight. The motion passed unanimously.
Meeting adjourned at 6PM.
Daniel Hofman, City Manager