The debate over the size of the St. Clair Township Road District staff, and the ire between township trustees and the highway commissioner continues to brew.
Even though he was budgeted to have four employees, Highway Commissioner Skip Kernan opted to have five employees when the fiscal year began on April 1.
For the 2015-16 fiscal year, which ended March 31, Kernan also was budgeted to have four employees, but he employed five. When the line item for wages ran out of money, midway through March, all five of the employees had to be laid off.
At the recent annual township meeting, road district employee John Tiernan even submitted a petition, with 38 signatures, to call a special township meeting.
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Agenda items for the meeting would include the road district budget, the district’s staffing levels and considering an amended budget.
The petition includes calling for a “transfer of funds from the town fund or any other appropriate fund to any road district fund to provide such funding adequate for staffing for the road district.”
Tiernan also asked the meeting take place at Whiteside Middle School in Belleville in case there is a larger turnout.
Kernan said the meeting would include a vote of people who attend on whether to transfer money to allow the road department to have five employees.
He added the $250,000 budgeted for wages is really only enough for 3.5 employees.
The requested meeting has yet to be scheduled.
Kernan also said the number of employees he has doesn’t affect property owners’ tax bills.
“If I have five, 10 or two employees, they pay the same amount of taxes,” Kernan said. “I’ve never raised taxes.”
During the annual meeting on Tuesday Kernan also said he no longer plans to sit at the dais during monthly township meetings.
Anybody that has questions, concerns, issues, whatever it may be regarding the road district, we can go right back into my office, we’ll get them (answered) back there. That way we won’t tie up the board doing what they need to do.
Skip Kernan, St. Clair Township Highway Commissioner
Kernan, who doesn’t vote during meetings, does not have to be at the dais during meetings, said Township Clerk Brenda Reed.
“Due to a lot of things going on these days, and due to some of the board members lack of support, from here on out at the regular township meetings that take place once a month, I will no longer be sitting up in that seat, however, I will be here in the audience,” Kernan said. “Anybody that has questions, concerns, issues, whatever it may be regarding the road district, we can go right back into my office, we’ll get them (answered) back there. That way we won’t tie up the board doing what they need to do.”
Kernan said questions he receives are from people who are grandstanding for political reasons.
“If they have an issue or concern, you’ll want to get that resolved. I have a lot of the information in my office,” Kernan said. “When we come to a meeting like this, and certain people (have) pre-rehearsed questions, you don’t give me the opportunity to have numbers and facts in front of me.”
During the annual meeting, Township Trustee Mary Carroll, asked Kernan to justify the need for five employees.
“We don’t see any kind of reports; we don’t see any kind of information on what’s actually being done on a daily basis, or even a weekly basis or even a monthly basis,” Carroll said.
We don’t see any kind of reports, we don’t see any kind of information on what’s actually being done on a daily basis, or even a weekly basis or even a monthly basis.
Mary Carroll, St. Clair Township trustee
“What do you do as a supervisor to keep track?” Carroll added. “How do you know where your employees are? What’s your daily routine?”
Kernan said Carroll could visit the road district office.
“Anytime you’re so inclined; you’re more than welcome,” Kernan said. “I could assign one of the guys, and you could go out in the truck with them, and actually witness and see what they do on a daily basis.”
Township resident Jill Halupa defended Kernan’s management of the road district.
“I think the road employees have been here for quite a few years. I think they know what they’re should be doing,” Hallupa said. “I don’t think you have to micromanage them all the time. You could check in on them.”
Steve Duff, who moderated the annual meeting, said there needs to be accountability with township spending.
“I think there should be documentation on how the taxpayers money is being spent,” Duff said.