By REID TUCKER
Though the Paxton Town Council still has yet to resolve the issue of performance evaluation-based raises for employees of the city’s water department, but the Council members agreed to decide once and for all come May.
The Council voted last November to table the issue until January of 2011 when the newly elected Council members would have acclimated themselves with the city’s employees. Then, in January, the issue was tabled until March, by which time the city’s 5-percent increase to the water rate and the 3-percent increase to the sewer rate would have taken effect. However, no decision was reached at the March meeting and neither was one reached during this month’s regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, April 19.
That said, it was unanimously decided that something would be decided about employee raises at the following month’s meeting, once the Council reviewed a balance sheet and a line-item income statement detailing the city’s financial standing. Though the city’s general fund budget was said to contain some $300,000 for discretionary spending, Paxton’s water system must show a profit lest the city lose its state funding, which was what necessitated the rate hike in the first place. It has been argued in the past that some of those funds could be used for merit-based raises for city employees with no additional impact on Paxton’s taxpayers, but the Council chose to resolve the matter after reviewing all the associated information as part of an effort to become more knowledgeable about the city’s finances.
“It’s time to get this thing off our hands,” said Councilman Bobby Kemp.
The Council also voted to renew the city’s annual roadside maintenance contract with the Walton County Association of Retarded Citizens, otherwise known as ARC, and the Florida Department of Transportation. The agreement takes effect July 1, but other than a change in the dates the particulars of the contract are the same as in years prior. According to the provisions of the agreement, the state provides funds (in this case $8,053.88) to the city for maintenance of Paxton’s roads and these funds are transferred to the ARC, which actually performs the work.
During the old business section of the meeting, the Council was notified of the sale of two of the city’s old work vehicles at the Walton County Surplus Auction, held Thursday, April 14, in DeFuniak Springs. The two trucks, a Ford Ranger and a Chevrolet S-10, brought $400 and $900, respectively, at the auction.
Mayor Hayward Thomas notified the Council of the Walton County Sheriff’s Office’s desire to sponsor a rodeo event within the Paxton city limits to raise money for juvenile diabetes. The Council unanimously approved the use of the large open area behind the city’s old municipal airport building during the time of the rodeo. No specific time frame for the event was given.
The final item discussed by the Council began as a routine water bill waiver request. City Attorney Lori Bytell said the Council could not approve the waiver as the individual bringing the waiver before the board had already had a high water bill readjusted to the usual rate on another occasion. Though the city’s policy is to forgive a citizen’s water bill on a one-time-per-customer-per-lifetime basis, Councilman Tommy Mathis said he would like to find a way to “help out.”
Bytell said if the Council is unhappy with the way the ordinance is enforced, it should formally amend it rather than make provisions on an instance-by-instance basis. Nevertheless, Mathis, who is not in favor of the current one-time waiver system, asked Bytell if she would look into what could legally be done as far as setting up a payment plan in instances where a high water bill would place a large financial burden on an individual. Bytell agreed to review the Town Charter and submit a written opinion before the next meeting, when the Council agreed a decision would be reached.
“I don’t think it should be automatic for anyone who wants one,” Mathis said. “I think it ought to be based on need. I don’t think you ought to have to come out in public or to come before the Council to get it done. I don’t see how we can approve this without changing the whole scheme of things.”