Westphalia aldermen approve salary increase for city clerk

By Theresa Brandt, Staff Writer
Posted 3/3/21

Westphalia aldermen last Tuesday approved an increase to the part-time salary for the City Clerk Kerry Bax, which will reflect approximately 20 hours per week at $20 per hour, for a yearly cost of …

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Westphalia aldermen approve salary increase for city clerk

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Westphalia aldermen last Tuesday approved an increase to the part-time salary for the City Clerk Kerry Bax, which will reflect approximately 20 hours per week at $20 per hour, for a yearly cost of $19,000. Her salary will be split between the different entities of the city of Westphalia with 40% of the wages comes from the general fund, 40% coming from the sewer budget, and 20% coming from the street fund. The new salary will take effect on April 1.
“When Kerry started 20 years ago, obviously the amount of time was a lot less to accommodate in comparison to what is being spent now,” Mayor Tammy Massman said. “On average, we are barely paying minimum wage to our clerk.”
“There is a lot, a lot of report work that goes on in addition to what you guys see me bring in here,” Bax explained. “These things are not going to go away. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reports are still going to be required. The Census Bureau, the Department of Revenue. business licenses, taxation, election changes … all of that is required in addition to Osage County Accessors and Recorders offices. Working with all these entities must be done, and there will probably be more each year. It is not at all something just anyone can do and it has to be done right.”
“Right now, the bulk of the responsibility falls upon the least paid person,” Massman continued. “I personally feel that (a raise) is fair and reasonable.”
Massman noted that the city pays other outsourced labor about $20 per hour.
Bax is also absorbing a lot of costs for the city that are never reimbursed.
“Kerry maintains the phone line, an internet service, and a fax service,” Massman said. “None of that has ever been accounted for.”
“Basically, with this position, we need to look at it as a position and not who is sitting in it,” Bax said. “We’re not all going to be doing our stuff forever and this is what we need to do to move forward.”
Although Bax did not say that she was retiring, she and Massman did express concern that it would be hard to find someone to replace the city clerk who was willing to maintain the city’s office in their home and absorb all the extra costs for the pay that comes with the position.
If Bax did decide to retire, Massman noted that it would be hard on the city to replace her.
“We would be in a little bit of a pickle because we don’t have any office space,” Massman said. “We are not providing any insurance or benefits.”
Bax noted the city has been budgeting $150 for office supplies for years.
“I can’t buy a set of ink cartridges for much less than $100,” Bax said.
“Do you have actual expenses that you are eating?” Alderman Mike Kliethermes asked. “We don’t need you to be carrying those expenses as well.”
“To me, it is so hard to split them up,” Bax said. “So, with the ink cartridges, I use them for personal stuff too (but) 95% is for city stuff. I can’t figure out if I use this much for this and this much for that. I’m just trying to be honest and so I suck it up and pay for it.”
She noted that she has tried to store paper and other office supplies in City Hall but since the building is not climate-controlled, the supplies end up damaged and it works better to store them at her house.
Kliethermes and fellow aldermen asked Bax to keep track of any additional expenses that could be reimbursed by the city.
In other business, the city has sent out letters to residents who had deficiencies in the wastewater system that were found during the smoke-testing conducted last fall. Deficiencies, no matter how big or small, will need to be repaired by July.
Westphalia will also start looking at making repairs to the deficiencies on the city’s side as well.
“We know we have a couple of gutters still tied into the sewer,” Massman explained. “We also know we have infiltrate coming in through the manhole across from Highway 63. If those can be repaired, we are hoping to see a shift in those numbers.”
* Aldermen agreed to purchase a set of cutters for each motor at the lift stations for $525 each for a total cost of $2,100. The cutters will be replaced as the lift stations are cleaned out to reduce labor costs.
“They are not cheap,” said Sewer Operations Manager Phil Peaks. “They are supposed to chew up almost anything, and if we are lucky, we’ll get two to four years out of them.”
Peaks also noted that there have been some regulation changes that would reduce the effluent monthly sampling schedule.
“That should be where most of your money is spent (on testing) so we should see a 66% reduction in cost as we go from 12 tests to four tests,” Peaks explained.
* Peaks told aldermen that recent cold weather did not create any big problems in the wastewater facility although some chemicals that had been in storage had frozen and would need to be re-purchased.
* Aldermen discussed the budget for the next year which will be decided at the March meeting. The only significant change was the newly approved salary for the city clerk’s position.
* The city is planning for street repairs for the upcoming fiscal year as well as anticipating increased funds from the newly increased sewer rates.
* Massman noted that revenue from gas taxes was down from the previous year while local sales taxes were up.
“More people were shopping locally and weren’t traveling out as far would be the assumption,” Massman said.
Bax said this is the first time the board was able to see the numbers broken out into additional categories instead of lump sums.
* Aldermen plan to update an ordinance with the public water district to reflect current rates on both increased water and sewer rates.
* Massman noted that there is an ongoing problem with a vehicle parked along the street and in no-parking zones, which is impeding traffic flow.
Massman has discussed the issue with the property owner and hopes that it will be resolved.
“We need to designate actual no-parking zones on certain corners,” Kliethermes said. “That’s what I was talking about a couple of months back about painting the curbs red for no parking and fire hydrant zones.”
Bax will research ordinances the city currently has on no-parking zones and what may be needed to change or add more zones.
* Massman has been approached about selling the city’s plow truck. Currently, the city contracts for snow removal for the city streets but the company does reserve the right to use the city’s equipment when needed.
Repairs and maintenance to the city’s plow truck and bobcat are budgeted at $1,200 per year.
Kliethermes said the existing contract is based in part on the use of Westphalia’s equipment. “If we just roll that truck away the rate for snow removal will definitely go up,” he added.
Kliethermes also argued that in a pinch, one of the aldermen or the mayor could operate the truck in an emergency to get the roads cleared.
Aldermen tabled the issue but will look at putting together a maintenance schedule for the equipment going forward.
* Massman recently authorized the use of the city’s bobcat to pile up snow in the St. Joseph Church parking lot during the recent snow event.
* Sheriff Michael Bonham addressed the board. “We just want to make sure we keep the communication open between Westphalia and the sheriff’s office,” he said.
Bonham outlined newer technology, such as the speed trailers and a surveillance trailer, that the sheriff’s office is employing to help mitigate limited personnel and resources.
Massman noted that the city is not planning on having any events in the upcoming year, and aldermen did not note any big problems the sheriff’s office needed to address.
“We have a special place in our hearts for Westphalia,” Bonham said. “Let’s keep in touch.”
* Kliethermes said he would like to organize a volunteer city-wide cleanup in the spring.
* Aldermen approved the following expenses for February: city fund ($2,591.55), sewer system ($4,847.99), and special road district ($1,343.50).
In financial news, the city had the following receipts for February: city ($8,816.67), sewer ($6,578.55), and special road district ($15,135.51).
* Westphalia has the following account balances: city checking ($150,237.71), sewer system checking ($14,129.52), special road district checking ($63,798.77), and special road district savings account ($5,108.68).
* The city has the following certificates of deposits: city ($437,155.48), sewer ($519,067.59), and special road district ($520,326.77).
* The next meeting is scheduled for March 30 at 6:30 p.m.

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