Agenda includes hard look at personnel cuts

The City of Ely seems to be having frequent financial discussions on its agenda. At a meeting two weeks ago, City Administrator Bob Switzer put on the agenda for discussion and possible action to make the animal control officer position half time, and to eliminate a position in the Parks Department.

After much discussion, and a crowd full of concerned citizens, the council decided that they needed to discuss more options before cutting positions.

The agenda for the meeting scheduled Thursday, Feb. 22, has a multitude of agenda items that may or may not help with their budgetary issues. A compact with Ely Shoshone Tribe for the cultivation, production and manufacturing of cannabis products, a proposal to the county for Ely Fire/EMS services with a monthly fee of $6,000, totaling to $72,000 annually.

Councilman Sam Hanson has also placed on the agenda to give Switzer the direction to solicit proposals for police services or establish the City of Ely’s own police force. The city is currently paying the county $490,640 this fiscal year for police services.

The discussion and possible action for closure of the recycling center is also on the agenda. The recycling center that opened a few years ago was a topic of discussion in a City Council meeting in February 2016 along with the discussion of the scales that were bought and installed at the landfill.

Councilman Kurt Carson was against them then, and currently still is. But even with voicing his concerns, the council at the time voted 3-2 with Carson and Jolene Gardner being the two nay votes on the scales, and Carson being the only opposing vote on the recycling center.

The cost of the scales was $54,000. At the February 2016 meeting, Carson said, “I think we’re going down the wrong path a little bit. I want to promote recycling, but we could get in too deep and I don’t think we can afford it.”

But the recycling center isn’t in the general fund, so how is this affecting their budget issue?

Probably the most hard-hitting agenda items are the discussion and possible action to eliminate the salaries of the mayor, city council members, a 5 percent decrease in salary for Switzer, City Attorney Chuck Odgers, Fire Chief Ross Rivera and City Treasurer Janette Trasks.

The proposal of decreasing these four employees pay was placed  on the agenda by Hanson. The next agenda item also requested by Hanson is to replace the Treasurer Trask’s functions with an accounting firm, Keddington and Christiansen, CPA. Hanson noted on the agenda that the services of this accounting firm would result in a savings of $26.250 per year.

And then as the last two agenda items listed by Carson and Tony DeFelice are requesting the approval of Switzer’s and Odgers’ pay to be reduced by 25 percent.  Making Switzer’s pay reduced by $20,935 and Odgers by $26.906.25.

Transparent Nevada posted Odgers salary at $125,900.08 in 2016, and Switzer’s salary at $113,480.07 in 2016.

Switzer was hired in September of 2014 and since then a pay raise for Switzer was put on the agenda on Feb. 12, 2015, and Jan. 14, 2016, and on both occasions the council voted unanimously to approve his raise.

In 2015 it was to reclassify him to Administrator and his pay rose to $79,000, and in January of 2016 the approval was given to give him a 6 percent raise.  Something that the council members at the time unanimously approved.

In October 2016, there was discussion at a city council meeting whether to advertise for a Public Works Director and it was decided that they needed a City Treasurer.

Gardner said at the Oct. 6, 2016 meeting “I think we need a Treasurer and don’t need a Public Works Director.”

Former Councilman Bruce Setterstrom said, “There’s too much on Bob’s plate”  Setterstrom asked Switzer “you’d rather have a Treasurer than a public works director? Switzer said yes.”

City Treasurer Janette Trask was hired on March 27, 2017, and by July 6, 2017 she was sending memos to the Mayor, the Council and City Administrator with financial concerns regarding the general fund.

Her memo outlined issues that she had found and had been correcting. Some were miscoded funds that she was correcting. In summary, Trask corrected and transferred over $162,465 of revenue out of the general fund to other funds causing the beginning fund for the fiscal 2018 year to be overstated.  The fund that is in trouble and the reason all these agenda items are now listed for this weeks meeting.

Trask also noted that there was a reduction of over $702,730 in four years when she sent the memo in July 2017 to the council, mayor and administrator.

She suggested survival mode then, but were her concerns heard? Would the city be where it are now if the council acted on the concerns of the Treasurer in July of 2017?  Is her position one they should be looking at eliminating?

Letters to the Editor indicated a alleged “secret meeting” at City Hall last Tuesday between the mayor, city administrator, city attorney and councilmembers Hanson and Gardner regarding the agenda items of the elimination of Trask, and the decrease in pay for Fire Chief Ross Rivera and Trask.

The Ely Times contacted Mayor VanCamp and she reported no “secret meeting” took place last Tuesday.

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  1. Donna Frederick says:

    Point to Ponder – when you were looking at that October meeting, did you notice item 5 under New Business? City Hall closes at 5:00 and no one but employee’s who have to work overtime is allowed in the building? Flash forward to the meeting Thursday when it was stated by Odgers that he met with Gardner and Hansen from 5 to 6:30 and the only other ones in the building was Coster meeting with Switzer. It was an unanimous decision in the October meeting to pass that resolution, and Odgers, Hansen, Gardner, Switzer and Coster were all there.
    They were so anxious to confirm there were only two Council members meeting with Odgers – Hansen and Gardner, they forgot that they had voted that could not happen.

  2. Just wondering…How many paid firefighters are there in our “‘volunteer” fire department and what are their salaries ?….Same question about our county firefighters.

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