If no significant changes are made to the draft of an airport improvement grant, the mayor will be able to sign off on it and get moving on the project. The $1.56 million project grant requires a 10% match from the local government. The town plans on seeking half those matching funds through a separate grant from Montana Aeronautics. The project includes runway re-construction, and construction of two aprons and some taxiway.
In related business, the Council approved a contract with Morrison-Maierle for construction oversight and pre-construction management of the project.
The contract for doing the runway re-construction was awarded to low bidder Knife River for $1.52 million.
In other business, the council rescinded Mayor Brandon Dewey’s salary and then approved a slight raise for the new fiscal year. The Mayor was currently being paid a monthly stipend of $833.33 and $25 per hour for up to 20 hours of work each week. Councilor Robin Holcomb said that she brought the issue up because the extra pay was granted back when “the mayor threatened to shut the town down.” She said the pay was to compensate him for doing the jobs of the Clerk and Finance Officer when those positions were vacant and to hire and train replacements and was only meant to last a couple of weeks.
“We now have a full staff and don’t need the $25 per hour,” she said. “I move to rescind the mayor’s pay effective immediately.” The vote to rescind the pay was unanimous.
In later business, the council took up the issue of the mayor’s salary again during some budget discussion. The mayor’s preliminary budget boosted salary for the mayor’s position to $39,000 annually.
Councilor Steve Gibson said he was opposed to any salary based on hours and proposed a stipend of $1,000 a month with 80% coming out of the General Fund.
Holcomb said that she was against that high of a salary when it was adopted and she still was. She said that all the mayors she has met are either retired or work at another full-time job.
“This is not a job,” said Holcomb. She said that the position was never meant to be a full-time job and she thought $833 a month was “very reasonable.”
“You’ve got a full staff. We approve policies. You just supervise employees,” she said.
Councilor Patrick Shourd talked about the workload and made a motion to set the stipend at $1,666.67 per month. That proposal met resistance so he rescinded it and moved to set it at $1,400. That, too, met resistance.
Gibson then moved to set the stipend at $1,000 per month with 80% coming from the general fund and it was approved on a 3 to 1 vote with Holcomb dissenting.
The council also passed a motion to conduct a Special Audit covering the time since April Vantassel quit as finance officer to the time that Robert Underwood was hired. The Mayor wrote all checks and kept the books during that intervening time.
“Not to accuse anyone,” said Holcomb, “just for checks and balances. In that time, the mayor should not have been writing checks. I’m not accusing anyone of anything. We just need to know.” According to Underwood, such a special audit could cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 or $20,000, depending on the scope. Conducting a special audit was approved unanimously.
Budget discussions are set to continue on Wednesday, September 18 at 6 p.m.