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Council passes budget 5-4 after Hawley and Christian swap positions

Story by Dan Fischer, WBTA:

By the slimmest of margins the Batavia City Council Monday night approved a budget for the coming fiscal year that includes the hiring of an assistant city manager.

The budget approval process nearly derailed when Ward 6 Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian withdrew her support of the budget and voiced opposition to the assistant manager’s position.

The budget was approved by a narrow 5-4 margin.

Joining her in opposition were Ward 5 Councilwoman Kathleen Brigs and Councilmen-at-large Eugene Jankowski and John DeLeo.

Christian said that after “dozens of telephone calls” she learned that the federal government would soon step in to address the rising cost of FEMA flood insurance.

The study of flood insurance, and how to control rising premiums, would be the primary responsibility of the new assistant, according to City Manager Jason Molino.

“We really don’t need an assistant now that the federal government is stepping in,” Christian said.

Molino took exception to Christian noting that federal intervention into the flood insurance issue was only a proposal and not a certainty.

Still, it was enough for Christian to change her vote and touch off a lengthy debate among council members to table the budget.

Councilman-at-large John DeLeo favored a delay in the budget vote and remove funding for the assistant’s position. “My constituents have told me ‘hell no’ on this assistant manager issue,” DeLeo declared.

When a vote to table the budget failed by a 5-4 vote it was clear the budget, with funds for the assistant manager, would pass.

Council President Brooks Hawley, who had stated his opposition to the assistant manager’s position in early budget debates, said his objection did not rise to the level of scuttling the entire budget. Hawley voted in favor the budget along with council members Kris Doeringer, Patti Pacino, Pier Cipollone and John Canale.

The $24-million budget calls for a reduction in the tax rate of 13-cents per $1,000 assessed valuation. A separate measure to increase water rates passed unanimously. The increase will cost the average city water customer another $10 per year.

CORRECTION: The tax rate is 13 cents less per thousand. The original store misstated the amount.

Peter O'Brien
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And with that my choice between new roof or move has been made. Time to find a place that doesn't lie to its voters.

Ted Wenzka
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I thank the city council for passing the budget which gives me a whooping savings of $.03/thousand on my taxes and a assistant city manager that is not needed. The tax decrease will really help to pay for the increased cost of my garbage disposal. This city council is truly useless.

Mark Potwora
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Kris Doeringer does the exact opposite of what the people he represents wants..Mr.Hawely says one thing and does another.....Maybe the ones who voted down the asst.manager can now push for the dismissal of Malino and they can promote the new asst manager to manager ..problem solved..

John Roach
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Hawley caved in, pure and simple. He could have voted no, then we had 3 more weeks to get this done, without the Assistant Manager in the budget. Rose Mary has to take some of the blame here. She has flipped back and forth on this for weeks, and allowed the Asst. position to stay in up to the vote. She could have eliminated it earlier and should have. She was told weeks ago that the Congress was working on this, and waited too long to change her mind again.

Of course, in the past 2 1/2 months, only 12 people spoke out against this position being added to the City work force. Face it, the public deserves much of the blame also for just sitting back. If more had spoken out, maybe Hawley would have bucked up and voted no like he did before.

Mark Potwora is right, once the new manager is hired, we can push to get 5 of them to fire Molino and move on. the 6 ward positions are not up for election until next year, but maybe we can make Molino one of the issues?

As Councilman John Deleo pointed out last night, the tail is still wagging the dog here.

Eugene Jankowski Jr
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Unfortunately we were unsuccessful in our attempts to make changes and the 2014-2015 budget passed with the assistant city manager position included. However, I've made an official request to have at least one City Council member sit on the interview / hiring committee. I want to ensure that the most qualified person is hired for the assistant manager position and the process is monitored.

John Roach
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While there is no provision for Council members to sit in or be part of any employee interview or hiring (other than for the Manager), it can be made clear if 5 members push it that the Managers continued employment is contingent on following Mr. Jankowski's request. The hard part will be getting 5 members to take a stand.

Mark Potwora
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John maybe only 12 came out against it but how many came out and spoke out for hiring asst.manager.How many called or wrote the council that were against it.?I guarantee it was more then what were for it...Also who sets the starting wage for the asst.manager?Set it real low....Those on council who voted for it did not vote the way the people they represented wanted....So now lets just see how much lower this new asst.manager gets those who pay flood insurance reduced.I need my car and homeowners insurance reduced..They can work on that next...lol..This position can be eliminated next year...

John Roach
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Mark,
I counted 12 people since January who spoke against the hiring of an Asst. Manager. And there were about 10 others like yourself who attended at least one meeting and let your opinion be know to Council, without speaking during the public comment portion.

And there is no way to really tell how many called or wrote. But even if was 4 times the number who spoke, that would be a grand total of 70. Let's be truthful, that is not really a lot.

Council set the salary range, in the budget. The manager decides where in that range the person will start.

Don't kid yourself, whoever they hire will go to the guidelines from FEMA and over a period of time the City will meet the requirements for reduced rates. It will just take a lot longer now since we did not hire a professional consultant that could have been ready from day one. The new person will take a while just to get up to speed on City issues and then learn the FEMA regulations

Jim Rosenbeck
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I was disappointed that Brooks Hawley voted to add the Asst. City Manager position in this year's budget. Some people are going to vote for bigger government because they believe that growing government is the right answer. I didn't expect that from the Republican, City Council President though. On a related matter, council was clearly confused by the obfuscation of the issues provided by the city attorney last evening. City Council deserves an advocate to help them cut through the legalese and murky rhetoric offered by current legal council. From my point of view, the city attorney often confuses more than he clarifies. His seeming inability to clearly and concisely respond to Mr. Jankowski's questions last evening concerns me. When was the last time the city put out a request for proposal for legal services? I would like to see local attorneys have the opportunity to compete for the city's business. Certainly, there are qualified local attorneys. Time to shop local.

John Roach
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Jim, you're right. According to that State audit, that was the type of services that should have been looked into to see if we could get a better deal. The Manager hires the attorney for the City, but Council can override him. That is long overdue, as is having a new Manager. I don't believe the current Manager has the trust or confidence of the citizens in the City.

Ted Wenzka
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In response to people not showing up, I believe the reason is that people know nothing will happen. Take for example garbage collection. People showed up and what happened. NOTHING. We have too many do-gooders, yes people, on the council. They care nothing what the people want. They believe they know better than the citizens of Batavia. As I have said to people many times before, the City of Batavia is a one-horse town, the horse left years ago and it is never coming back. Another person told me "Don't stir the s##t, it stinks bad enough already".

John Roach
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Using the garbage issue to justify not showing up is bogus. People stayed home before that. And while the people who wanted ARC only for garbage did not get their way, the hundreds that did show up killed the idea of forcing everyone to buy from only one company (Allied) and stopped people from being forced to use the totes..

And if not getting your way one time (like the garbage) is your reason for giving up and never attending at all, or not again, then you deserve what you get. You don't lose once and use that as an excuse to take your ball and stay home.

Truth is most people don't like the way things go, but not enough to really bother doing anything.

Kyle Couchman
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Its really simple John, those that make excuses not to get involved but still whine about what is and isn't done get exactly the Govt they deserve. I know there are some out there that call and write their reps on City Council. Thats getting involved to a point but in modern day politics, they can ignore or minimalize such communications.

However if people show up and go on the record in person, thats pretty hard to deny, and gives some council members pause because it becomes harder to justify votes. Just as we saw with the garbage issue.

It's the modern day problem, everyone wants to be as uninvolved as possible but they want things done a certain way. I'm sorry but you have to get involved and do some work in your community and govt if you want to see change. Sitting and griping about it makes our council and county just tune it out and it becomes easily ignored background noise.

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