Palmyra revises town’s salary ordinance
Mike Arnold, Contributing Writer
The Palmyra Town Council, during its bi-monthly meeting Thursday evening that was followed by the town’s utility board meeting, discussed an amendment to its 2021 salary ordinance.
Clerk-Treasurer Debra Jones presented the amendment as necessary to cover holiday pay for 2020 holidays for two new town employees.
In addition, town attorney Adam Burkhardt read a revised version of the town’s salary ordinance.
The salary ordinance now states all full-time employees qualify for holiday pay under the town’s annual holiday schedule, even those who have yet to surpass the 90-day probationary period. In addition, employees will be eligible for six paid-time-off days and 10 vacation days per year.
Burkhardt said the revised ordinance supersedes any prior policies in effect and also mentioned the town discussed making additional updates to these guidelines in the future.
“I think this reflects our most recent discussion,” Burkhardt added, and the council voted unanimously to pass the amendment.
The council voted to retain Virginia (Jennie) Kirkham as its president for 2021.
As president, Kirkham was also authorized through council resolution to execute contracts on the town’s behalf related to a matching grant award it is set to receive from the Indiana Dept. of Transportation Community Crossings program.
Jones said the town learned of the award Dec. 8.
According to INDOT’s website, the town will receive $79,713.75 for use on street and road improvement projects. For towns with populations below 10,000, such as Palmyra, INDOT requires a local match of 25% of total costs estimated on the grant application. With total projected costs at $106,285, Palmyra’s share will be $26,571.25.
Town Marshal Dennis Lemmel updated the council about an ongoing issue involving a former reserve officer who resigned from the department but remains in possession of several items of town property.
Burkhardt shared a letter he drafted on the town’s behalf in which he requests the items in question be returned within 20 days.
Lemmel said the property he would like returned includes a police badge and ID, radio and charger, shirt and several keys for police vehicles and town buildings.
Burkhardt said he would add the itemized list of property to the letter, and the council voted unanimously to direct him to send it to the former reserve officer.
Lemmel said in 2020 the department responded to 300 calls for service. Those situations included traffic accidents and control, Vehicle Identification Number checks, domestic disputes, reports of prowlers and activated security alarms. He also announced reserve officer Jeff Wright has elected to retire.
As part of Lemmel’s report, Burkhardt also presented a proposed resolution for an agreement whereby the town would authorize WeaponsPro, of Salem, to act as a designated purchasing agent to procure ammunition for the marshal’s department. This initiative was originally presented by Lemmel at the council’s first November meeting as a possible way to save funds. Under the new resolution, purchases would not be permitted to exceed $1,500 in any calendar year, Burkhardt said.
Councilwoman Christall Ingle mentioned to Lemmel that she had been approached by residents claiming to have witnessed questionable activity recently at Buffalo Trace Park. Ingle said the individuals did not contact police or file a report.
Lemmel said he was not aware of that particular incident, but said the department regularly patrols the park and is aware it sometimes serves as a location for illicit activity.
“I’ll tell the guys to step up their presence in the park,” Lemmel added.
Discussion also occurred on the possibility of providing a cellular telephone for a new sewer department employee. Current policy allows partial reimbursement for cellular telephone expenses but does not permit payment for the entire monthly cost.
Jones mentioned role titles played a part in whether the Indiana State Board of Accounts would authorize a town to pay for telephones. Jones said that was only permitted for employees in supervisory or management positions. In addition, there is some question about the costs that would be involved if an employee used the telephone for personal business as well.
The council voted to table any further action to allow Jones to research more with the State Board of Accounts.
During the utility board portion of the meeting, the council (which also serves as the utility board) continued discussion of a prior matter relating to a customer’s request to install a one-inch water meter to allow for faster filling of agricultural sprayer tanks.
The board took no action but determined that while it has rates on its books for the one-inch meter, it lacks established charges for installation. One option would be to amend its schedule of rates and charges to add the charge for one-inch meter installations.
Town utility superintendent Stephen Schmitt said a one-inch meter has the potential to pull up to 2-1/2 times the flow of a three-quarter-inch meter. He said a customer wanting a one-inch meter could opt for a three-quarter-inch meter, which may be a better fit under the town’s current billing structure.
The board elected to research the matter further, so it could maintain consistency between its policies and charges for meter installation.
In other business the town council and utility board:
Agreed to purchase a Keystone time clock for employee time-keeping. Ingle said her support indicates her belief a standard way for time-keeping would be better.
Appointed Ingle to the River Hills Economic Development District board and re-appointed Kirkham to the Harrison County Solid Waste board.
Announced it will continue with two meetings per month and leave the meetings scheduled for the second and fourth Thursdays until further notice.
Signed annual nepotism agreements, where council members agree to avoid nepotism in hiring and contracts. Copies are kept at the town hall.
Tabled any action on adjustments to Health Savings Account pay-outs. A partial pay-out will occur in conjunction with the upcoming pay period, and any discrepancies will be corrected later.
Received clarification from Burkhardt that he believes broad discussion of employment policy should not occur in executive session; instead, it should be conducted during public meetings.
Reviewed requests from utility employees related to confined space training, and agreed to purchase four respirators and 16 cartridges. Also, asked the employees to research the virtual training further. Childers voiced his support for the training. “Don’t hesitate to be safe,” he added.
Voted to purchase a new chainsaw and 250 new hang tags for use by the utility department.
Detailed ongoing sewer situations on Charlotte Avenue and Avery Street. Town employees and Childers will employ use of a camera to investigate the issues and ascertain the town’s responsibility.