Council reviews expenses
"Hot issues" shortened the Baldwin City Council meeting last Tuesday. Two expense items including a $460 monthly car allowance for City Administrator Larry Paine were tabled and sent to the council's Finance Committee for review.
"It has been brought to my attention that this is a hot issue," said Mayor Stan Krysztof about the monthly car allowance.
Paine said letters to the editor in The Signal, as well as community concerns about property taxes, prompted the council to review the car allowance and the purchase of a $6,385 copy machine. Council member Gene Nelson requested a committee discussion about the copy machine.
"We have a problem with the copier we have," Paine said of the only copy machine at City Hall. "It doesn't work well. We've been band-aiding it."
Paine said the purchase of a new copier would include a service agreement and supplies, such as toner. It would also cost less than paying for upkeep of the current copier, Paine said.
"It becomes less expensive than operating what we are doing now," Paine said.
Paine said the upcoming election for three council positions and the mayor position, also increases concerns about spending. Paine's second annual evaluation in July came with high marks, a raise and the promise of a car with a new contract in January.
All parts of that contract were approved at a January meeting, except the car purchase. Council members questioned the public's response to a city-owned vehicle being used by Paine for business and personal use. Instead, the council recommended paying Paine a monthly car allowance so that Paine could purchase his own vehicle. That option also was tabled.
Paine said the original option of a city-owned vehicle, which also could be used for business by other city employees, such as the city clerk, is the best option. The purchase of a $15,000 2001 Ford Taurus by the city would be paid off in three years. A monthly car allowance would be for the life of Paine's contract, which has no time limitations.
"I don't want to be an issue in the election," Paine said. "I don't want it to be an issue with the council members themselves."
Paine said within 10 recent days, he will travel to Topeka twice, Kansas City, Mo., and Wichita.
"I have no way to get there," Paine said. "I'm looking at the vehicle as a tool. I have to represent Baldwin City in places that are not here."
The Finance Committee met late Tuesday afternoon, as The Signal was going to press. Paine was not sure if the expense issues would be on the agenda of the Feb. 5 council meeting.