Contract uncertainty concerns Lima administration

By Craig Kelly -

LIMA — As the year draws to a close, the issue of city contracts continues to hang over Lima City Council, with city administration considering alternatives in the event the contracts are not approved.

At the Nov. 20 meeting, several ordinances enacting city contracts were sent to Lima City Council for approval. However, each of the ordinances were defeated, with those same ordinances defeated by the same 5-3 margin Dec. 4 during a second reading.

The rationale for voting against these contracts is that council will look markedly different by the time these contracts come into effect the beginning of next year, as 5th Ward Councilor Teresa Adams articulated in November. Adams, along with 3rd Ward Councilman Jesse Lowe II and 7th Ward Councilor Ann Miles, will all be replaced after being defeated in the November election by Jamie Dixon, Carla Thompson and Jon Neeper, respectively.

“This contract is for 2018, and I will not be supporting it this evening as I feel it should be carried over, hopefully, next year to the new council to have a say, since it affects the budget for 2018,” Adams said.

Both Lowe and 6th Ward Councilman Derry Glenn have also voiced objections to contract labor in the past on principle, saying that if people are doing work for the city, they should be employed by the city.

“During campaigning, the mayor was pro-union, so prove it,” Lowe said in a submitted statement. “Hiring temps when the budget shows it’s unnecessary is a slap in the face to taxpayers and the unions that supported him. If proper training for the next person in line for the job were to take place before people were to retire, we wouldn’t be dealing with this.”

Public Works Director Howard Elstro said having contracted staff in place, including such positions as electrical inspectors and engineering tech surveyors, is essential to retaining certification and providing timely services, especially with several major projects underway at such locations as the National Bank Building, Procter & Gamble and Dominion Energy.

“Just in the month of January, we have 377 inspections for projects,” he said. “It’s about providing good customer service.”

Employing such specialized employees full-time, rather than on contracts for set hours, would also cost the city more, Elstro said. He cited an example of paying an engineering tech surveyor $54,300 for a 1,760-hour contract vs. paying $82,500 for a full-time employee. Elstro also said that, should the city be unable to have the specialized contract personnel in place, there is a risk the city could lose its inspection certification, leading to the potential loss of city employees who work in that department.

Community Development Director Susan Crotty said for positions such as the junk vehicle maintenance inspector, who works during warmer weather months, having a full-time employee fill that role is not feasible. She said hiring that position seasonally would not work well because applicants would have to go through the Civil Service evaluation process each year.

Should the ordinances fail during their third and final reading Monday, Lima’s administration is examining using executive purchasing authority to partially fund these services. Under current statute, the mayor can authorize payments up to $15,000 without seeking Lima City Council approval.

By Craig Kelly

Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.

Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.

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