Sallisaw City Commissioners made several major decisions at their regular meeting Monday. The commissioners voted to call for bids on a new animal shelter, agreed to a change in retirement benefits for future employees, and changed city ordinances to include same sex marriages in benefit packages.
Keith Miller, building development director, reported to commissioners on a study he did on the cost of the new animal shelter. He explained he priced material costs, and found the cost would be $195,750. The commissioners had set aside $100,000 for the shelter, and would be hard pressed to find the extra money. Ward 2 Commissioner Ro Poindexter, not present at Monday's meeting, told other commissioners earlier that donors may make up the difference, but needed to know how much was needed. City Manager Bill Baker explained the commissioners could call for bids on the building, and then would have 30 days to determine if the shelter was feasible with donor money. It it was determined that the $95,750 could not be raised through donations, the commissioners could turn down all bids, which is written into the building contracts. The commissioners unanimously approved calling for bids for the shelter.
Baker explained to the commissioners that the city's benefit packages for employees was excellent, but could prove difficult to continue in the future if the economy doesn't improve. City Clerk Dianna Davis explained the proposed changes to the retirement benefit did not impact present employees. Changes would go into effect on Nov. 1 for new employees. The retirement age will be increased to 65. At present, employees may start drawing retirement if their own age and their years of service add up to 80. Now it will be a simple age 65. In addition, employees, at retirement age, may draw as much as 90 percent of their salary. That amount will be reduced for new employees to slightly less than 70 percent. Baker said, "This enables the city to fund the plan and protect our current employees. The city will show a savings in the future, within five or so years."
Davis also explained that the city ordinance defining 'spouse' in the benefit plan was required to be changed to allow for same sex marriages. She said, "We don't have a choice." The change reflects the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to hear objections to same sex unions by several states, including Oklahoma. This refusal forces the states to recognize same sex marriages.
The commissioners also heard a report on the city's annual audit, presented by Ron Cottrell, CPA. He reported the city is in good financial shape, with only three findings, or changes that may be needed. Two were at the police department, which Baker said Chief Terry Franklin is already addressing. The third is to review the city's P Card, (Purchasing Card). The card is given to department supervisors so they, when buying needed materials, do not have to submit a purchase order. The P Cards have a limit, but Cottrell said some supervisors had gone over the limits, and their material needs should be reviewed.
City Manager Baker's employment agreement was on the agenda, at his request, as he considers retirement. Baker asked that the agenda items related to his employment be stricken since he is reconsidering his options. By Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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