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Clerk skips board meeting

Had already reached weekly hours limit

Jodi Summit
Posted 12/31/69

GREENWOOD TWP- Greenwood Township Clerk Sue Drobac did not attend the Aug. 12 board meeting, a protest based on the fact she had already worked the maximum of 12 hours per week the board had set for …

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Clerk skips board meeting

Had already reached weekly hours limit

Posted

GREENWOOD TWP- Greenwood Township Clerk Sue Drobac did not attend the Aug. 12 board meeting, a protest based on the fact she had already worked the maximum of 12 hours per week the board had set for her at the meeting in July.
The clerk had already put in those hours due to evening hours required for the primary election on Aug. 11, along with her regular office hours on Aug. 11 and 12.
At the July meeting, the board had cut the clerk’s pay to a total of 12 hours times the equivalent of her previous “hourly” salary, which they based on her former regular office hours of 20 hours per week. At that time, Drobac informed the board she could not complete all her required clerk duties in the 12-hour-per-week timeframe.
The board said it was up to her what items not to complete in her more limited time, Drobac said.
Drobac sent an email to Chairman Mike Ralston prior to the meeting explaining her action. According to Drobac, Ralston responded to her claiming that her hours working for the election did not count toward the 12-hour weekly limit, since the 12 hours was only related to time spent on township business.
Drobac said Ralston told her she could present those extra hours, like for elections, election training, or clerk training, for pay. But Drobac told The Timberjay there was no board policy on that matter, and she had no idea if she actually would be paid for those hours. She had been told to limit her time to 12 hours per week, so she had.
Drobac also informed Ralston that Deputy Clerk John Bassing has sent a letter of resignation, which the board accepted.
In the letter, which was not read aloud at the meeting, Bassing told the board that he was resigning due to the fact he was not able to attend any trainings or put in time at the office without prior board approval.
“This renders my position in name only,” he said.
Drobac also informed Ralston that she would be appointing Jeff Maus as her new deputy clerk. The board has no authority over the designation of either clerk or treasurer deputies. Drobac told Ralston that since Maus had not received any training yet, he could not take minutes, and that one of the board members needed to take minutes and then submit the typed minutes to Drobac.
In the past, Drobac said, she would work as long as was needed to complete her clerk duties, but now, as an hourly-paid clerk, she was limiting her time to her paid hours.
Ralston opened the meeting, held via teleconference, and said he would be taking notes, apologizing for any delays that might occur. All five supervisors plus new interim treasurer Belinda Fazio were present on the call.
There were numerous problems with supervisors not having all the materials they needed for the meeting. Drobac has left the meeting materials in the township office for supervisors to make their own copies, she said, since she had run out of time. She also had not had time to prepare an agenda and post it on the website, so Ralston had prepared the agenda, but never posted it online. She had made a digital copy of the packet available which was emailed to those who requested it.
The telephone connection once again was shaky. There was a lot of noise when supervisors started and stopped talking, and at one point it was very difficult to understand the chairman, with the connection cutting out every few words, and he had to switch to a different phone. At one point there was a loud flushing noise, origin unknown.
Belinda Fazio gave her first treasurer’s report, noting the township had received $137,187 in revenue last month. The beginning fund balance was $535,378, disbursements were $27,145, and the ending fund balance was $646,740. Receipts included $89,182 in property tax apportionment, $22,500 in a federal CARES Act grant, $5,933 in township aid, $5,606 in federal PILT payments (payment in lieu of taxes), $5,000 fire department grant, $4,000 for the second half payment for the fire contract with St. Louis County, $1,912 in fire department training funds, $1,714 in taconite tax relief, and assorted smaller payments.
The town board has yet to have a substantive discussion on the budget. Ralston had included some projections in the packet which showed the township’s year-end unrestricted fund balance dripping from $608,022 in 2020 to $456,522 in 2022. Ralston said he was concerned to see the township’s reserves dropping below township annual spending.
“We have to be very careful with spending moving forward,” he said.
Ralston said he would like to see township salaries cut for the treasurer and supervisors, equivalent to the cuts made last month to the clerk’s salary.
“But I don’t think we should cut the fire department wages,” he said. “Without a fire department there is no need for the township. We have a very stable fire department.”
Supervisor Carmen DeLuca said he was not in favor of making any cuts at this time.
“I want to see this on paper,” he said, noting he did not have a copy of Ralston’s notes. “I am not voting for anything tonight.”
“We have basically decimated our reserves,” said Ralston. “I agree that having a million dollars in the bank was too high, but now we are below what is recommended by the Minnesota Association of Townships.”
Ralston agreed to postpone the budget discussion once again.
“We don’t have to act on it tonight,” he said.
When DeLuca tried to bring up the budget issue again, Ralston shut down the discussion and moved on to the next agenda item.
Other business
In other business, the board:
• Heard the board had received a considerable amount of correspondence from Lee Peterson concerning the Tower Ambulance Commission, including emails between Peterson and Timberjay Publisher Marshall Helmberger. Ralston noted the township was waiting for their attorney to review the final version of the contract, but noted the township was sending out their first half per capita payment of $4,000 to the city of Tower.
• Heard from John Bassing that neither Paul Bunyan nor CTC was able to work with Greenwood Township on a broadband service grant this year. Both were committed to projects in other areas. The broadband committee was meeting with one other provider, but it would be too late to apply for the state Border to Border grant program this year.
“We are on hold until next year,” Bassing said.
• Passed a motion to support and certify the 2021 levy for $150,000. The town board had asked residents to approve a levy of $250,000 without submitting a 2021 budget for review. But at the annual meeting, residents only approved $150,000.
• Heard from Fire Chief Dave Fazio who said the department would like to look at again raising the PERA pension amount. The amount was raised from $1,900 to $2,500 earlier this year. Fazio said the department’s current account is funding at almost 200-percent of its liabilities.
“That’s a lot of money that can’t go anywhere,” he said, and said he would like to see the pension amount increased until the balance is closer to 100-percent funded. At this point the fund is healthy enough that it does not require any township contribution. In the past, the township has made annual pension payments.

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  • Lee Peterson

    The township reserves have not been decimated. Unless the Town Board has a very large, unbudgeted expenditure that they are planning, the township finances are in excellent shape and actually are overfunded. Note that the Town Board didn't present a proposed budget for consideration at the March, 2020 Annual meeting where the residents voted to approve the tax levy. The last time a proposed budget was presented was back when John Bassing was a Town Board member. This budget process needs to be re started and presented to the residents a couple of months before the tax levy is set at the Annual meeting. That's the way the budgeting process is supposed to work. It probably will require some new members on the Board. John Bassing would go over a proposed budget line by line at a regular Town Board meeting a month or two before the Annual levy setting meeting when he was on the Town Board. Discussion was open and questions were answered. Adjustments were made. It worked. It was open.

    Concerning the Tower Area Ambulance Service, which is administered by the City of Tower: At the meeting reported on above, in discussion I stated that the Tower Area Ambulance Service ambulance vehicle replacement subsidy Account (per capita contributions from TAAS members) has been replenished and is now protected by language in the proposed new TAAS Agreement. I also said that the Ambulance Service Account, money that the ambulances earn from runs, has been transferred out of TAAS by the City to cover unrelated City expenses such as the "harbor" project, and has not been replenished. And there has not been language put into the proposed Agreement to protect the fund from unrelated City transfers in the future. Our township attorney recommends in writing that this language be put into the agreement before the agreement is signed by the end of the year. To me it is a no brainer. (The 2019 City of Tower Audit lists $697,299 in ambulance service money as "Due From Other Funds") That's serious money. It needs to be restored and protected. Someone needs to explain to me how an ambulance service can remain viable if the City, that is trusted by the TAAS to administer the operation, takes money out of ambulance earnings and spends it on City expenses.

    Wednesday, August 26, 2020 Report this