The Park Hills City Council met in regular session Tuesday night to work through a hefty agenda including purchase requests, city employee benefits and other requests.

The council first held a public hearing related to a special use permit requested to operate a child daycare facility at 208 Adams Street. City Attorney Ed Pultz explained that the council would be examining six factors when considering the issuance of the permit, including effect on traffic, character of the surrounding area, fire hazards, welfare of the community, utility usage and any foreseen conflict with the city’s comprehensive plan.

Community Development Director Ron Booher spoke first, introducing the request and drawing the council’s attention to written comment received by the city regarding the permit issue.

The owners of the proposed daycare spoke next regarding each of the six factors, saying that no negative effects should be caused by the usage of the home for a daycare.

The council then voted upon each of the six factors, consistently voting that no negative effects were foreseen after hearing testimony regarding the daycare facility, which will only care for up to 10 children at any given time. The daycare will be licensed by the state. The permit was issued to the owners for the use of the home as a daycare.

The council next voted to vacate an alley located at 1312 East Main Street in Park Hills. The group then adjourned into executive session to discuss personnel matters.

Upon reconvening, the council heard City Administrator Mark McFarland’s report. He discussed the Parks and Recreation Department, saying the pool had a rough year but had recently closed for the season. He said the number of children enrolled in community soccer had risen from around 300 to around 500.

McFarland next said railroad crews had been sent to mow railroad property in Park Hills to avoid incurring cost for city crews doing the work for them.

Alderman John Clark then reported for the council utilities committee, describing upcoming work and projects that were discussed in the committee’s recent meeting with utilities officials.

Next, Mayor Daniel Naucke raised the topic of property owners in the downtown area who wished to do work on their buildings, but are required by city ordinance to go through several architectural and engineering steps before doing so. The council decided Pultz and Booher should further investigate the matter to see if the properties could be worked on without incurring unnecessary costs.

The council next considered an ordinance to authorize the mayor to purchase a work truck on behalf of the water department. The city had received a bid from Turner Chevrolet for a 2018 Silverado 2500HD 4WD regular cab work truck for the amount of $35,156.

The vote initially failed, with Aldermen Adam Bowers and Charles Politte voting against the measure. After discussion, it was said that the money had already been allocated in the previous year’s budget and was not a new expenditure.

The council voted to revisit the ordinance, at which time the vote passed with only Alderman Bowers still voting against the purchase.

Economic Developer Norman Lucas spoke to the council about the upcoming proposed Trunk ‘N Treat, held by the Park Hills Downtown Association each year. The council approved the use of a municipal parking lot and assignment of police presence for the event.

Lucas also spoke to the council about seeking Traffic Engineering Assistance Program (TEAP) funds to get the ball rolling on reworking the intersection of Marty Drive and Taylor Avenue to ease congestion.

McFarland also presented the council with a proposal to use a new company for I.T. services. The company in question, G.F.I. Digital, is being used by the city in a limited capacity, and McFarland said it is outperforming the company the city uses for general I.T. services.

The current company used by the city charges $975 a month, plus an additional hourly rate depending on the city’s usage. G.F.I. charges a flat rate of $3,500 a month, which McFarland said could be even lower. He said he is confident that G.F.I. would be a good choice for the city.

The council voted to approve using G.F.I. for I.T. services going forward.

Lucas spoke once more to the council regarding an agreement that needs to be reached between the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, related to the project at Fairgrounds Drive. The project involves DNR granting an easement to the commission, which the DNR cannot do for an indeterminate amount of time.

The agreement includes granting the commission an easement for 25 years, but also includes the city’s commitment to keep the proposed trails open for that same duration. The council approved the agreement.

McFarland spoke again regarding the insurance made available to city employees. He said usage had gone way up in the last year, but the city was doing everything it could to refrain from raising premiums or negatively affecting the coverage received by city employees.

“We really went over on medical bills this year,” McFarland said. “We are self-insured. In 2015, we self-insured with $218,375. In 2016 it was $391,826 and this year, as of this afternoon, it was $873,212 and that could still climb. So we had an unhealthy year this year.”

After the city incurs a certain amount of insurance cost, a portion of the cost is reimbursed to the city ... so some of those funds will return. McFarland said as an effect of the year’s costs, the cost cap was raised from $450,000 to $650,000 but if the city’s costs return to normal that amount could lower once again.

The plan was reapproved with little change, except for a pharmaceutical portion. The council voted to continue to pay $10 a month for “tele-doc” services for city employees, which McFarland said employees are encouraged to use. By doing so, he said, employees could help curb the inflated insurance costs.

McFarland also spoke about a proposed retirement plan for city employees through the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), which would force city employees to deposit two percent of their pay into a 401a retirement account. McFarland said the plan was a focus of Naucke’s since he took office, which the mayor affirmed.

“It gives them something,” Naucke said. “That’s what I’m after. Some of you guys have worked another 20 years with, really, not a very good retirement. It should have happened 20 years ago, but it didn’t happen.”

The council approved the ordinance authorizing Naucke to enter into the agreement with ICMA. A meeting will soon be held with representatives of ICMA and city employees to answer any questions regarding the retirement plan.

A pay increase was approved for the Park Hills Fire Department. There will be no change to the fire chief’s pay; the assistant fire chiefs will be given a raise of $50 to $250 per month; captains will receive a $50 increase raising their pay to $100 a month; there will be no change to the secretary’s pay.

Pay for fire calls were adjusted as well. Structure fire pay was raised from $15 to $25; vehicle and brush fires were raised from $10 to $15; all other calls will be $7; meeting attendance will be $5; and in a new pay category firemen will receive $5 for attending training sessions.

A one-percent pay increase for all city employees who are being paid above minimum wage was also approved.

Jacob Scott is a reporter with the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3616 or at jscott@dailyjournalonline.com.

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