(Posted Feb. 1, 2019)
By Amanda Ensinger, Staff Writer
Personnel changes could be in the works for the village of Mount Sterling.
“Recently, I was called to a meeting with the state auditor who said we have to get a village administrator,” said Mayor Billy Martin at the Jan. 28 village council meeting. “As you are aware, (Courtney Bricker) is fulfilling 75 percent of what this job entails, but we need someone who can do this job all the time.”
For more than a year, Bricker has been fulfilling her duties as fiscal officer and clerk of council, as well as performing most of the duties associated with the village administrator position. Mount Sterling has been without an administrator since terminating John Martin’s contract in the fall of 2017.
“I think this will be a great opportunity for the village,” Bricker said about filling the position. “Where I lack or don’t have time to do things, this person will be able to step in.”
The village administrator’s duties include overseeing village employees, managing budget appropriations, requesting bids and contracts for improvement projects, ensuring Environmental Protection Agency compliance, researching and applying for grants, and making purchasing and cost-saving decisions.
The financial commission committee, which includes Mayor Martin, council president pro tem David Timmons, and representatives from the state, will discuss the administrator position during a meeting at 10 a.m. Feb. 5 at town hall. A special meeting of council is likely to follow within a few days, with the job being posted within a couple of weeks, according to Bricker.
While council members did not voice opposition to hiring an administrator, some were concerned about the State Auditor’s Office continuing to tell Mount Sterling leadership how to run the village.
“I have no problem hiring an administrator. My issue is with the state auditor and them telling us what to do,” said council member Lowell Anderson. “We can have a village administrator position without filling it. I am sick of the state auditor telling us what to do and this needs to stop.”
The state has been overseeing the village’s financials since declaring the village to be in a state of fiscal emergency in June 2017.
Council also discussed the need to hire additional staff. Recently, the water plant operator resigned, leaving the village with two full-time laborists–the street utility/mechanic and the waste water technician. Previously, the village had five to seven full-time labor staffers. The village has posted the water operator position.
“It may take us longer to respond to certain things with this limited staff,” Bricker warned residents. “Please be patient and know we are getting to you as quick as possible.”
Bricker commended the staff for not taking overtime pay during recent snow removal. Bricker said some employees worked as much as 15 hours overtime and, instead of taking time-and-a-half pay, opted for additional comp time to help the village save money.
Mayor Martin announced there will be no nuisance or block watch committees this year due to council members refusing to serve on the committees. At a recent meeting, council members Tammy Vansickle, Rebecca Burns and Tom Ward refused to serve on committees to which Timmons assigned them. The council members cited time constraints and health concerns as their reasons for not serving on the committees.
“The rules of council say you cannot refuse to be on an assigned committee,” Mayor Martin said. “However, right now we have several council members refusing to serve on the committees they were assigned. As a result, we will not have a nuisance and abatement and block watch committees.”
Also at the meeting, residents and internal staff voiced concerns about council members’ ongoing arguments and bickering with one another.
Resident Bob Fish talked about Ward walking out of the prayer at the beginning of the last council meeting.
“I am very disappointed in council. To invite a guest to the meeting and then walk out is embarrassing,” Fish said, referring to the local pastor who led the prayer. “This guest has helped the village and to walk out on them is an embarrassment.”
Mark Pitstick, village law director, also expressed frustration.
“I also am disappointed with council. We were at the top and heading towards easy street, but instead the council is now split 50/50 with the mayor having to break ties,” Pitstick said. “I think we need to come together, sit down, apologize and act like adults. We are all 50-plus (years old) and need to step up to the plate and do what is best for the citizens.”