As Mayor Cindy Shanks opened the September 14 Canton City Council meeting, she took the opportunity to thank former clerk Brock Bergey and give him credit for the role he played in the city recovering from misdeeds by his predecessor.
She admitted to being unprepared at the special meeting held in late August where the council had accepted Bergey’s resignation. “Everything happened so fast, from receiving his resignation to the time of the special meeting to accept his resignation,” Shanks stated. “I regret that appreciation was not given at that time. I did not have time to organize my thoughts and, in hindsight, I wish that appreciation and thanks would have been expressed at that time.”
Shanks continued by explaining that Bergey had spent three years in his position, inheriting a “mess” left by the clerk who had taken money from the city and misappropriated funds. “He did a wonderful job dealing with a less than ideal situation,” she said. “Brock was a hardworking and dedicated clerk treasurer that advocated for our city and he will be missed.”
She concluded her statement by stressing that because of Bergey’s efforts, Canton is in a better place than it was three years ago.
The city council reviewed its preliminary 2023 general fund budget, with proposed expenditures at $256,431, an 8%decrease from 2022.
Items of note included an increase to employee wages of $1,942; a 10% increase in worker’s compensation insurance; a 7% increase to property insurance; $1,000 added for awards and recognition; an increase of $1,000 to operating supplies, considering rising fuel and other costs; an increase to capital outlay for a new town hall furnace; a $2 per capita increase for ambulance services and a slight increase to electric and gas utilities.
Shanks also pointed out that the 8% decrease in proposed expenditures is, in large part, due to the city purchasing a backhoe in 2022, which had been part of the 2022 budget and was no longer included.
Proposed revenues totaled $277,085, a 1% increase from 2022.
With these considerations, the city opted for a tax levy increase of 6% which will generate an additional $9,874.06. Local government aid will generate an additional $655.
As is the case annually, the preliminary budget and proposed tax levy are submitted to the county by the end of the September, but the city does not finalize the budget or tax levy until December.
Council member Kristy Ziegler explained that the proposed levy gives the city a little leeway in case something needs to be added to the budget that councilors do not anticipate yet. “We have three months where something unexpected could happen,” she said. “We can always lower it (the levy) in December.”
Continuing a discussion about personnel policies and handbook revisions, that started at the August regular meeting, the council members looked at options for paid time off (PTO) for their employees.
In one plan, employees would have been able to cash out up to 40 hours of PTO at the end of the year. “I have never been in favor of a end-of-the-year cash out,” said Carl Ernst. “That would be a hard ‘No’ from me.”
Ziegler pointed out a few of the PTO policies from neighboring communities, noting, on average, Canton’s allowed hours are on the low side.
In the end, the council agreed to offer PTO for employees who work over 32 hours a week. During the first five years, employees can earn up to 100 hours; from six to 10 years, 140; from 11 to 15 hours, 180 hours; and over 15 years, employees can earn up to 200 hours.
This includes both vacation and sick leave, combining the two into one category. Employees will be able to roll over up to eighty hours at the end of the year, but must never exceed 280 hours of unused, accrued PTO.
Water meter usage
In another matter discussed at a previous meeting, Josh Nordsving recommended clarifying language in the water regulations portion of the ordinances. He noted he felt the language needed to be more specific in regards to multi-family housing units with one service connection.
He recommended that the ordinance be changed to read, “Properties with only one service connection, but supply more than one single-family unit, such as apartments, duplexes, four-plexes or rental properties with more than one single-family living on property, will be charged one service fee per unit.
While this had been practiced in the past, Nordsving want to clarify the policy in writing so it is fair and consistent for all customers.
The council approved the suggestion, with a direction to have the city attorney come up with the proper wording.
In her report, Deputy Clerk Barb Kerns noted that business at the city is carrying on following Bergey’s resignation. She expressed gratitude for the assistance she has received from the other city staff and from members of the council. She also noted she is thankful for patience and understanding as she learns some tasks and operations as she goes.
Public Works Director Jon Nordsving updated the council on the mixer at the wastewater treatment plant that needs to be repaired. He said the mixer is still under warranty, but the concern is the 87-day wait for parts, which are being custom made in Sweden.
Nordsving also reported the boring crew working in town punctured a water main last week, causing a water outage of about eight hours. The expense for fixing that leak, including employee hours, will be covered by the boring crew. Nordsving said they had done the proper locating, but had gone too deep with their dig.
Finally, Nordsving had investigated the costs of a new sewer locator with camera that will allow employees to locate sewer mains.
This will also enable the staff to provide a good service to residents if they are having sewer issues. It can determine where the problems are taking place.
Nordsving also explained that, with an additional part, the device can be utilized to locate water lines.
The council decided to once again apply for an Arlin Falck Foundation Grant for a city project. This year, the city would like to add a new roof for the park shelter and enclose the rafters from the bottom to prevent birds from roosting.
It was also decided that Ziegler and Ernst would represent the city of Canton at a joint meeting with the Mabel-Canton School Board. The date of that meeting is yet to be determined.