Heavy agenda for Martin board meeting

Heavy agenda for Martin board meeting

Mum’s the word for a venture that would have cost the City of Martin nearly $20,000 and in turn promoted the town on national television.
The Martin Board of Mayor and Aldermen were asked to consider adding the city to a five-minute segment of “Today in America” hosted by Terry Bradshaw.
The proposed program features a segment on topics, trends and issues related to “Hidden Gems to Live, Work and Play” in the show’s “Discover America” series.
The segment would air one time nationally on the FOX Business Network and 19 times regionally on CNN Headline News through regional cable operators. But the publicity came at a cost for the City of Martin to the tune of $19,800.
“You have had ample opportunity to look at this. It’s a good opportunity, but I don’t know if you want to spend the money,” Brundige told board members during their monthly meeting Monday evening.
Alderman Randy Edwards asked where the funds would come from to pay for the promotional product. The Martin mayor answered the funds would come from the board-approved projects line item, but pulling that money would leave very little in the fund balance for anything else that may come before the board.
Alderman Bill Harrison requested a motion to table the issue for 30 days and was told Brundige had to give the producers an answer for scheduling purposes today (Tuesday).
A motion was made to vote on going forward with the project, but the issue died for a lack of a second.
In other news, board members did table a request by landowner Larry Merryman to remove his vacant property on Hamm Road from the city limits.
Merryman’s property was annexed into the city limits in 1994. It was in 1998 when the City of Martin adopted an ordinance that would give annexed property from thereafter rights to city services such as sewer and water.
Brundige explained Merryman does receive fire and police protection through the city’s departments, but does not have water and sewer services.
It was reported Merryman pays $365 in city property taxes each year. While board members were unaware of similar properties that do not have access to city water and sewer services, they opted to dig deeper into the issue and table Merryman’s request to be removed from the city limits for 30 days.
In personnel news, a lengthy discussion was had when Martin firefighter Robert Gertsch asked board members to clarify a section of the employee handbook regarding sick leave for a firefighter.
Gertsch is scheduled for a mandatory separation from Martin Fire Department at the end of the month due to a resolution adopted in 2008 requiring a mandatory retirement age of police and fire personnel at the age of 60. Gertsch does not have the required years to be vested with the city for retirement.
Gertsch said according to the employee handbook, a firefighter will be charged one day for every 12 hours of sick leave taken. It also stipulates two days will be charged against a firefighter for a 24-hour period of sick leave taken by the employee, according to Gertsch. Fire department personnel work 24-hour shifts.
By his calculation, he would have a little more than 856 hours of sick time available, therefore allowing him to remain with the department until April 2012. At that time, he said he would be a vested employee.
City of Martin human resources manager Celeste Taylor said sick time is figured the same as vacation time for members of the fire department. Gertsch noted when fire personnel take vacation time, they figure hours – not days.
The issue had been ongoing since December 2010.
Since that time Gertsch has made requests to be grandfathered under the former mandatory retirement age of 62; allow him to remain as an EMT-status firefighter with the department or allow other firefighters to donate sick leave hours to him until he has acquired enough to be vested with the city.
According to the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System, an employee who is a participant of the system cannot be grandfathered.
Taylor said allowing other employees to donate sick leave to retiring employees was not a financially-sound decision.
“The unearthed donate monies will increase the City of Martin’s payout and would have to be entertained for all employees requesting the same treatment for years to come,” Taylor noted.
“The terms and conditions of the City of Martin’s mandatory retirement age requirement are and should remain the same for all such employees within its employ.”
Board members offered to table the issue until Nov. 28. The board tied during a roll-call vote. Brundige broke the tie and the issue was tabled.
The mayor announced records of past retired firefighters would be examined and the city attorney would be made aware of the situation before the meeting Nov. 28.
Weakley County Chamber of Commerce executive director Barbara Virgin reminded board members and visitors to be creative and shop Weakley County this holiday season as the local economy “desperately needs it.”
“If you can’t find it in Weakley County, then you don’t need it,” Virgin joked. She did reiterate for people to spend their dollars at home this holiday season.
C.E. Weldon Public Library director Roberta Peacock announced the attainment of computer equipment for the lab is in place as the library prepares to offer basic computer classes in January to help people seek jobs.

WCP 11.15.11

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