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Front Page » December 8, 2005 » Local News » Sunnyside council votes to reduce city employee bonus exp...
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Sunnyside council votes to reduce city employee bonus expenditures

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Sun Advocate reporter

Councilmembers in Sunnyside voted to cut the city's spending on holiday expenses in 2005.

The council met on Tuesday and in multiple instances passed motions to reduce the city's spending on some of the more immediate expenses.

Last summer, the council had proposed to raise property taxes sharply to compensate for the city's financial needs.

The proposal faced opposition from the local power plant and the council committed to reducing the city's expenditures.

Sunnyside city employees will receive a smaller bonus this year.

Since 2000, employees have received a $150 bonus during the winter holidays.

According to Councilmember Sherri Madrid, other cities in the county give bonuses with varying amounts. The bonuses are primarily are given in the form of gift certificates.

Some cities such as Helper and Wellington which have similar financial burdens have historically not given bonuses.

Councilmember Gene Vernon said he could not in good conscience approve the bonus this year in light of the city's financial situation.

"I think Christmas bonuses have a lot to do with morale," said Councilmember Sam Leonard. "It's one way to say we appreciate what [city employees] do throughout the year."

Leonard added that if the council voted to cut the bonuses altogether, employees may take offense.

The council voted to reduce the bonuses to $75 for each employee, cutting the financial burden to the city in half.

The decision was split 3-1, with Vernon voting against the bonuses and Councilmember Douglas Parson absent.

The city also cut its costs by limiting the size and cost of the gifts given to city residents. Each home within the city will receive a small basket filled with fruit, peanuts and candies.

In previous years, the city has given an additional basket to widows.

However, Mayor Bruce Andrews noted that it is easy to forget an individual. Further, the cost of the additional gifts comes at a cost to the city.

"When you run a city and you can't buy the things you need during the year, I think you need to think about cutting back on things like this," commented Leonard.

The council voted not to give the widow baskets this year. The total cost of the gift baskets to city residents is projected to be around $500.

In an unrelated matter, the council tabled the amendment of the city's nuisance ordinance.

In an email, Parsons expressed his opinion on the matter.

While serving in Iraq, Parsons will receive agendas and related items over the Internet. In order to vote, he must call during the meeting.

However, Parsons can comment on city matters and have his comments read during council meetings.

Parsons pointed out two objections he has to the ordinance. First, he objected to the penalty. The ordinance sets the penalty for noncompliance at $750 per day. Residents who have fail to comply with the ordinance are given a grace period to comply. After the grace period expires, the fines begin to accrue.

"I think $750 per day is unbelievable," said Madrid. Other councilmembers agreed that the fine seemed high.

In the past Parsons has held a position that the ordinance was too strict in its requirements relating to vehicles stored on a resident's property. If a resident stores a vehicle, the ordinance states that it should be kept in a garage or carport.

The amended ordinance would add that the vehicles should be covered with some type of car cover. Parsons' opinion was that a vehicle should be allowed to be stored on a resident's property, and that if it is covered by a car cover or tarp, that would be sufficient whether the vehicle was or was not stored in a garage or carport.

In light of the points raised by Parsons, the council voted to table approval of the amended ordinance.

In an unrelated matter, the council considered the need to establish a policy regarding email on city computers.

Vernon commented that the city has not established a personnel policy. He said the council had considered policies in previous years in the past but had not approved one.

In previous years, the council had acquired policies from cities similar to Sunnyside. The Utah League of Cities and Towns has a template which the city can use to develop a policy. Despite the resources the city has acquired, no policy has been developed.

Leonard suggested that the council should at least get a skeleton of a policy in place and do it quickly. He added that the city could modify the policy at any time, but that getting something in place was the important part.

The council voted to form a committee comprised of Leonard, Madrid and Andrews to draft a personnel policy. No motion was made on the subject of email. That matter is expected to be included in the personnel policy.

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