Metro-East News

Collinsville City Council members disagree over salary increase for city employee

From left: Councilman Jeff Stehman, Councilwoman Nancy Moss, Interim City Manager Mitch Bair, Mayor John Miller, Corporate Counsel Steve Giacoletto, Councilman Jeff Kypta, Councilwoman Cheryl Brombolich
From left: Councilman Jeff Stehman, Councilwoman Nancy Moss, Interim City Manager Mitch Bair, Mayor John Miller, Corporate Counsel Steve Giacoletto, Councilman Jeff Kypta, Councilwoman Cheryl Brombolich acortes@bnd.com

Councilwoman Nancy Moss began a discussion among the Collinsville City Council members regarding a 33.8 percent salary increase for a city employee temporarily taking over a recently vacated position during the Tuesday night meeting.

Former Economic Development Director Erika Kennett resigned several weeks ago, Moss said, and Interim City Manager Mitch Bair appointed Leah Joyce, the uptown coordinator, to be the temporary “point person” for economic development.

Bair authorized that Joyce’s salary be temporarily increased by $16,420 per year, not to exceed one year, from $48,580 to $65,000, according to Moss.

“While technically, the interim city manager has the authority to do this, I don’t think it means that he should,” Moss said. “... How many of our citizens, in this economy especially, are getting increases of this magnitude, even promotional increases. $16,000 per year — who does that?”

Moss mentioned that salaried city employees received a 2 percent increase for the year.

“And I wonder how many of our residents in this town where the median income is less than $50,00 a year — it’s in the 40s — I wonder how many of our residents didn’t even do that well,” she said.

Interim City Manager Mitch Bair authorized that Leah Joyce’s salary be temporarily increased by $16,420 per year, not to exceed one year, from $48,580 to $65,000, according to Councilwoman Nancy Moss.

Mayor John Miller said he felt the increase was “worthwhile” and “fair and equitable.”

“I think that, in the long run, it’s saving us money until we can find a new economic development director whose salary will become discussed when we go out for that position,” Miller said.

Councilwoman Cheryl Brombolich emphasized that the increase is a temporary adjustment.

“The economic development director was making $85,000 a year. Leah is stepping in and doing those duties. That’s not unusual,” Brombolich said. “We just did that with Mr. Bair filling interim as city manager. We’ve done it in the past with many positions when someone leaves.

“We even have that if the finance director takes a week off, one of the technicians gets extra pay as an acting (director),” Brombolich said.

The increase is retroactive to Sept. 24, Moss said, which is the first day that Joyce began taking over economic development duties.

“To me, this represents everything that is wrong in government,” Moss said.

Councilman Jeff Kypta agreed with Moss.

“I feel the same way about this,” he said during the meeting.

Miller said he believes Joyce will do a “fantastic job.” Brombolich said she felt Joyce was qualified.

“I also think Leah will do a great job. She already does,” Brombolich said. “She handles economic development uptown and handles herself quite well with developers and in those meetings, so I have every reason to think you’ll do a fantastic job for the rest of the city and I thank you for stepping up,” Brombolich said.

Joyce declined to comment on the Council members’ remarks, but said she is “honored and happy” to serve as temporary point person.

Councilman Jeff Stehman said he hopes to eventually look at all the directors’ positions for opportunities to consolidate.

“One of the things that I want to see as a council member is a restructuring of some of these positions,” Stehman said. “Some of the positions have been filled in years past. There’s been some redundancy in them. I think this is a perfect opportunity, once a permanent city manager is hired, to look at these positions ... and see what can be consolidated.”

Don’t stand in this meeting and call me corrupt. If you have reason to believe that I’m corrupt, go to the police and file charges.

Mayor John Miller

Questions of corruption

Collinsville resident Rob Dorman, during public comment, read from the July 13 meeting minutes in which Miller addressed accusations that he received truck-loads of dirt for his backyard and did not pay for the dirt until after a complaint was filed.

“‘I have done nothing wrong. I fought for this country in Vietnam and I worked for the fire department for 31 years. I’ve been on this city council 10 years,’” Dorman said, reading from the minutes. “So what? If you’re corrupt, you’re corrupt. ‘I have served with integrity.’ No you haven’t.”

Miller banged his gavel, interrupting Dorman and said, “I have one question for you, sir: Are you accusing me of being corrupt?”

“You said you were,” Dorman responded. “I’m reading what you said.”

Miller said he was accused of being corrupt, but never said he was corrupt himself.

“If you want to charge me with corruption, the chief of police is right back there,” Miller said. “Don’t stand in this meeting and call me corrupt. If you have reason to believe that I’m corrupt, go to the police and file charges.”

Redevelopment agreement tabled

City Council members voted 3-2 to table a redevelopment and economic incentive agreement with CDR Real Estate Investment Inc. to turn the former Microtel Suites at 6 Gateway Drive into a La Quinta Inn and Suites.

Bair said the project is an outstanding item left by the former economic development director.

CDR Real Estate Investment Inc. owns the approximately 1.5-acre property on which development is “close to being completed,” according to Bair. The city would be agreeing to reimburse CDR Real Estate Investment Inc. for project costs not to exceed $300,000 if it accepted the agreement.

Moss and Kypta objected to giving the requested tax increment financing funds to the project, and both said they planned to vote against it.

They voted against tabling the project.

Moss called the agreement a “corporate handout that we don’t need to charge our citizens with.”

If they’re going to do something, then all the ‘T’s have to be crossed and the ‘I’s dotted to make the next step.

Councilman Jeff Stehman

Kypta said it is his understanding that the TIF application was not completed in time. Miller said he believes there was “some lag on the city’s part.”

“We were not in compliance with figuring the TIF as much as he was,” Miller said.

Stehman said he thought CDR Real Estate Investment Inc. was supposed to have the agreement in place prior to making expenditures.

“If they’re going to do something, then all the ‘T’s have to be crossed and the ‘I’s dotted to make the next step. And my understanding of this, from the memos, was the fact that they had not done what they were supposed to do, and then came in toward the end of the project and said, ‘Here we are,’ lacking the approval.”

Joyce said that is how she handles her TIF agreements, “but I can’t speak to how this one was handled because I didn’t do it.”

Miller said CDR Real Estate Investment Inc. was “counting on the friendly agreement that was made with the economic development director at the time that there would be TIF money available.”

“We have a very much improved hotel over what was there. It’s making money for the city. It’s bringing in tax dollars. And basically, that’s what TIF is for: to improve properties, to increase revenues and bring tax dollars into the city,” Miller said.

According to the agenda report, the city found that the buildings on the property have been less than significantly occupied or have been under utilized for at least one year. The $3.5 million redevelopment project is expected to employ 15 full-time and 10 part-time employees and have annual gross revenues exceeding $1.2 million after its first year of operation.

Some of the improvements made to the property include: repairing or replacing damaged elevator to meet building code requirements; redesigning guest rooms; adding an indoor pool, exercise room, guest laundry room and dedicated breakfast serving area, among other things.

In other business

The council approved the following:

▪  Accepting an Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission settlement contract in which the city will pay $23,335.83 to a city employee who injured his or her left arm and shoulder on Oct. 10, 2014, when lifting an 8-inch cast iron pipe.

According to the contract, the injury resulted in a 15 percent loss of use of his or her left arm at the shoulder. The employee has returned to work.

▪  Amending Collinsville municipal code to allow a gas station to expand uptown.

Bair wrote in a report that the wording of the code — prohibiting of both expansion and new development — was chosen to ensure no new gas stations were developed in the Uptown Collinsville District. Expansion of this gas station that is already located uptown “should be encouraged,” Bair wrote, but the code does not currently allow for it.

The city will add an exception to the code.

▪  Authorizing an emergency purchase of a $43,032 generator from Guarantee Electric for the city’s storm water lift station.

The generator is responsible for providing power to the wastewater plant’s storm water station during power outages. The existing 45-year-old generator failed to start during a test Sept. 23 and is now nonoperational.

Wastewater/Water Director Dennis Kress wrote in a report that replacement of the generator is required to happen immediately “on an emergency basis.”

“Failure to replace this generator immediately puts the city at substantial risk at being unprotected at the storm water station and poses a direct threat to the city’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit,” Kress wrote.

The $43,032 includes generator replacement and installation.

The Collinsville City Council meets next at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26 at City Hall, 125 S. Center.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2514, @lexicortes

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