Silt board follows through with further budget cuts
SILT, Colorado – The Silt Board of Trustees took formal action Monday to ratify a series of drastic budget cuts agreed to last month, including the elimination of the town’s two-person planning department.
By a 6-1 vote, the board – led by three new trustees and Mayor Dave Moore, who were elected April 6 on a platform to cut town spending – eliminated the full-time positions of community development director and planning technician.
Gale Carmoney, who had been Silt’s lead planner since September 2007, and Kathleen Michel, who was the town’s planning technician since April 2008, were given one month of severance pay and three months of health insurance benefits.
“We’re not firing anyone, we are eliminating positions for budgetary reasons,” said Trustee Rick Aluise, one of the so-called “Save Our Silt” slate, who was elected last month along with new trustees Bryan Fleming and Paul Taylor and Mayor Moore.
Also by a 6-1 vote, with Trustee Nicky Leigh in dissent, same as the previous vote, the board reduced the deputy town clerk’s position to half time.
A similar proposal cut the police clerk’s position to half time will be further discussed at a future work session.
“I don’t believe the board has the power to eliminate these positions,” Leigh said. “The board can adjust the budget, but it’s up to the town administrator to determine how to go about it. I think the board is overstepping its bounds, and inviting lawsuits.”
The cuts approved at the regular town board meeting Monday came on the heels of an April 26 decision by the board not to renew the contracts for former town administrator Betsy Suerth and town attorney Gene Duran.
The board on Monday formalized its decision to hire Davis Farrar, who works as an independent contract public planner/manager, as interim town administrator for $95 per hour, not to exceed 30 hours a week.
In addition, Glenwood Springs attorneys Walt Brown and Lee Leavenworth, were appointed interim town attorney and assistant town attorney, respectively.
Leavenworth will handle water issues for the town, as well as fill in when Brown is not available to handle general legal counsel. They will be paid $200 per hour, also with limited hours compared to the former full-time attorney position.
The interim appointments are on a temporary basis until the town board can decide how to proceed with hiring a new town administrator and permanent contract attorney.
Leigh, who ultimately went along with the interim appointments, initially objected to the contract amounts and the fact that no other offers for services were considered.
“If you annualize the amount we’re paying the administrator, it becomes $197,000,” she said. “I realize we’re not contracting for 40 hours a week, but it’s still well over budget for a town administrator.”
Leigh also criticized her fellow trustees for what she believed to be improper procedures to change the town budget.
“We completely bypassed the normal procedure,” she said. “I was expecting some pretty heavy budget discussions when the new board was elected, but what I wasn’t expecting was the heavy-handed, obviously discussed blind-siding that took place at the last meeting.”
And, she chided Moore for referring to himself in a recent blog post as the “Godfather of Silt” and the new trustees as “Thugs from Chicago.”
Moore said the “thug” reference actually came from someone else, and he decided to make a satire out of it with the blog post.
Several members of the public also spoke at Monday’s meeting, some critical of the board’s decisions to cut positions and make personnel changes, others in support of the moves.
“There was no secret about what the SOS candidates were going to do,” said Susan Taylor. “They were just doing what they promised citizens they were going to do.”
However, Mary Blichmann said she was “disheartened” by the way the decisions were made.
“You could have been more compassionate,” she said. “You guys have embarrassed our town, and you’ve treated people with utter disrespect.”
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