Collinsville leaders make arguments for and against city manager employment agreement
Two city jobs were consolidated and filled Monday by an employee who has already been juggling the duties of multiple positions.
At its Monday night meeting, the City Council authorized a three-year employment agreement with Mitch Bair, the acting city manager, to take over full time with the added duties of the vacated economic development director position. The city estimates the combination will save it $85,900 in salary and benefits costs.
Bair declined to comment Monday.
His salary under the agreement, which was approved with a 3-2 vote, will increase from $107,280 to $135,000.
By comparison, the former city manger’s salary was $111,420, and the former economic development director’s was $83,880.
Councilwoman Nancy Moss criticized this agreement, as well as other moves in the 2016 budget to adjust departments, for the added cost to the city. She voted against approval of the agreement.
“There’s an awful lot of things being done by essentially less people than we had before, and yet we’ve increased our budget. This year is $1,062,000 more than it was last year,” Moss said. “We’ve added staff in some places and reduced staff in other places, but the bottom line is we are spending more and we have raised taxes.”
Moss said a previous city manager, who had 20 years of experience, was given a salary of $108,000, while Bair, with no prior experience, is getting $27,000 more than that.
Councilwoman Cheryl Brombolich said in response to Moss that the last city manager also did not have prior experience. Bair’s qualifications include a master’s degree in public administration, Brombolich said, as well as his years working in local government.
“He’s probably more of a cheerleader for Collinsville than some that we’ve seen here lately,” Brombolich said.
The City Council will regularly evaluate whether the city manager is able to handle the additional economic development duties under the employment agreement. It stipulates that a review will take place annually and that Bair’s salary could be reduced by up to $20,000 if he were unable.
Bair, who currently lives in Missouri, is required to move to Collinsville within 12 months. Before that, the City Council will provide him a city-owned vehicle for his “exclusive and unrestricted use” in the St. Louis metropolitan region, for all work and personal travel, according to the agreement. The vehicle’s insurance, fuel, maintenance, repair and other costs will be paid by the city.
Mayor John Miller noted that the city would not be purchasing a new vehicle for the city manager. Bair will be given one of the cars that the city already owns.
You get to pay for his gas and insurance for any place he wants to go...and since he lives in Missouri and doesn’t have to take up residency in Collinsville for 12 months, that’s going to add up.
Resident Rob Dorman on the proposed city manager employment agreement
Councilman Jeff Kypta, who voted against approval of the agreement, took issue with the unrestricted use of a city vehicle.
“I don’t like giving him a car and gas to ride around St. Louis. I just don’t feel good about it,” Kypta said.
Resident Rob Dorman also objects to this condition of the agreement, and on Sunday afternoon, he paid $45 to send a robocall to about 1,200 homes in Collinsville informing other residents of this portion of the agreement.
“You get to pay for his gas and insurance for any place he wants to go...and since he lives in Missouri and doesn’t have to take up residency in Collinsville for 12 months, that’s going to add up,” Dorman said in the automated message. He encouraged residents to attend the City Council meeting to voice their opinions if they believe the vehicle costs are “excessive.”
Bair began working as acting city manager the same week the City Council voted 3-2 against renewal of former City Manager Scott Williams’ contract, which resulted in Williams’ termination on Sept. 3. Mayor John Miller, along with council members Jeff Stehman and Cheryl Brombolich, voted against renewing the contract, while council members Nancy Moss and Jeff Kypta voted for renewal.
The City Council formally appointed Bair as interim city manager on Sept. 14 with a pay increase of $1,800 per month.
At that time, Bair was also the city’s community development director, city planner, liaison to the planning commission and zoning hearing officer. Bair previously said the city manager position was actually his “original career aspiration.”
In its search for a permanent city manager, the city used an independent consultant, who reviewed resumes until November, eventually presenting four or five city manager candidates to the City Council, two of which were interviewed.
The reorganization of the economic development and city manager positions will include an administrative support position, responsible for uptown development, business district and tax increment financing programs, according to a report on the employment agreement, which does not name an employee for that position.
The last director the economic development department had was Erika Kennett, who resigned in September. Until recently, city employee Leah Joyce was the acting director, but she resigned earlier this month.
$85,900 City’s estimated savings in consolidating city manager and economic development director positions
City leaders held a special meeting Monday night to discuss a potential development agreement for an aging convenience store and gas station.
The owner of Collinsville Mini-Mart & Gas, located at 601 West Main St., wants to make $1.3 million in improvements and is hoping for a $480,000 reimbursement from the city in the form of TIF money.
The gas station is a Phillips 66, which requires a red and white canopy above its pumps. City Councilwoman Nancy Moss questioned whether those colors would complement the historic downtown, and specifically the 171-year-old D.D. Collins House, which sits on the same block as the Mini-Mart.
“It’s so contemporary,” Moss said of a rendering of the proposed work, which includes a larger red-and-white canopy covering two additional pumps.
The redevelopment plan includes demolition of adjoining property at 105 Hesperia, which is a vacant and “code nuisance property,” according to a memo Bair sent to the City Council.
With City Council approval, the TIF money would be awarded after work was completed. A lien in the amount of the award would be placed on the property for five years.
Owner, Bhavani Investment, Inc., is expecting sales to increase about 20 percent — from $2.3 million to $2.76 million — as a result of the work.
Collective bargaining agreement
During its regular meeting, the City Council approved 2 percent wage increases for the Fraternal Order of Police Civilian Unit.
The increase amounts to $12,100 during 2016, according to a report by Police Chief Steve Evans and Bair.
As a part of the collective bargaining agreement, there would also be changes to how overtime opportunities are handled by management.
Restricting Collinsville Crossing
The council also approved restricting access to ground water and soil previously contaminated by leaking fuel tanks.
According to Public Works Director Dennis Kress, the contamination was caused by a service station located near Collinsville Crossing Boulevard at North Bluff Road before the redevelopment of Collinsville Crossing.
Under a Highway Authority agreement, ongoing ground water monitoring will be suspended and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency remediation permit will be closed.
In other business, the City Council approved agreements with the following business and individuals:
▪ Midfirst Bank to annex approximately 12,300 square-feet of land located at 200 West Country Lane.
According to Bair, who is also the community development director, the site contains a “dilapidated structure” that has been condemned by Madison County and requires connection to a public sewer to facilitate redevelopment.
▪ Travis and Dawn Krimminger for pre-annexation of approximately 2.7 acres of land located at 6740 Stuart Drive.
▪ Richard and Melissa Mark for pre-annexation of approximately 21.37 acres of land located at 37 Black Eagle Ridge.
Bair said both pre-annexation agreements were required so that the properties could tap onto city water lines.
Friday’s South, 106 E. Main St., will receive a reimbursement of $5,034 in TIF money for electrical work to its rear outdoor dining area.
Council members Moss and Kypta voted against awarding the TIF money.
The business has received four TIF awards over the past four years for a total of $69,965.
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