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03-23-04 Former Celina official gets 16 weeks of salary

By Sean Rice
srice@dailystandard.com

Former Celina Community Development Director Sue Canary will receive 16 weeks of pay after the point she was fired by Mayor Sharon LaRue, an amount one city council member called “extravagant.”
   Members narrowly passed an emergency ordinance Monday night providing Canary with 12 weeks of severance pay. Member Angie King, who voted against the measure, pointed out that with administrative leave pay, the total package equals 16 weeks.
   LaRue dismissed Canary in early March, followed shortly by the announcement of Safety-Service Director Mike Sovinski’s retirement. The moves clear the top two city positions for reappointment.
   King said Monday the Canary package totals near $25,000, and the city does not have to continue giving severance packages just because it was done in the past.
   “I’m struggling with being compassionate while at the same time being a good steward with the city’s money,” King said.
   Using Canary’s annual salary of $58,000, 16 weeks of pay totals under $17,840.
   Though she disapproved, King voted “yes” to suspend council rules with the other five members present, which allowed the issue to be passed in one meeting. In the vote for passage, King voted “no” and member Collin Bryan abstained.
   Bryan had said he would abstain from voting on money issues involving the community development director, because his brother, Kent Bryan, is being considered as a replacement for Canary.
   Members moved an ordinance hiring Kent Bryan of Celina to third reading after an explanation by LaRue and the scheduling of a committee meeting to discuss the issue.
   “This is not the venue to talk about the issues on why I ... replaced the development director,” LaRue said when questioned on her intentions.
   “I was very impressed with his credentials,” she said. “It is what I feel is best for Celina, to move forward in a very positive direction.
   The contract hiring Kent Bryan states he will work 24 hours per week until the end of the year at a rate of $4,800 per month. Broken down to an hourly wage, the pay is $50 per hour, $22 per hour more than Canary’s salary.
   LaRue said with the contract the city gets the services of a certified engineer, which will save on consulting cost and there are no added benefits at all.
   Some members question the short workweek outline in the contract. LaRue said Bryan needs to finish a couple consulting jobs for Fanning/Howey Associates, Celina, in Indiana while working for the city. After a year the position can be reviewed, she said.
   “I feel very certain it is not going to be a minimal job,” the mayor said.
   Members were asked to approve an extensive pilot testing program Monday night, which will gauge the effectiveness of membrane water treatment on well water tapped on a proposed water well field north of Celina.
   Sovinski reported that a test well on a field owned by the Howick family north of Ohio 197 had promising results, spouting between 750- and 1,000-gallons-per-minute. Test wells dug on the initial well field east of U.S. 127 did not produce the level of water officials hoped.
   The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is forcing the city to construct a new water treatment plant, after 10 years of soaring trihalomethane (THM) reading THMs. THMs are believed to cause bladder cancer and a host of other diseases.
   In the most recent tests reported by city water employees, the THM limit exceeds the federal limit by 300 percent.
   King questioned the $112,000 cost of the pilot test, which was included in the budget passed recently. She also said it appears the city is locking itself into membrane treatment technology without investigating other treatment options, calling the membrane treatment an “overkill.”
   King said there is no telling how long the expensive membrane filters will last if the system is used.
   “That’s what the pilot test will show,” Sovinski answered, adding that studies show typical lime-softening treatment plants (like Celina’s current plant) cost more money to build and maintain every year compared to new membrane technology.
   Members decided to discuss the issue in committee before passing the emergency ordinance that was presented. It was instead passed to a second reading.
   In a separate matter, members passed a resolution allowing an additional liquor license to be imported into the city with very little information.
   LaRue could not tell members the exact name of the recipient of the license, where it is coming from or why Celina would be allowed to have another license when the number available is set on population.
   The request will allow alcohol to be served in the WestLake Village community lodge. A similar procedure also was used to get Romer’s catering the “TREX D-5” license under consideration.
   “The transfer is coming from someplace other than Mercer County,” the mayor said. “We’ll know more information later.”
   In other business:
    Members passed an ordinance approving a contract with Wabash Communications allowing the company to put Bright.net antennas on Celina’s water towers. The deal will give the city $750 per month, per tower.
    Councilor King suggested the city look into instating fines to help property maintenance issues in the city. She said other towns are fining owners of dwellings dubbed “trashy homes.” King also suggested the city start requiring lottery winners to pay city income tax on the winnings, as other towns are doing. Celina Auditor Pat Smith said that provision will be included in an income tax ordinance coming up this year.

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