Mayor Ricky Gottman told the Vandalia City Council on Monday that he will soon be announcing his department head and council committee appointments.
And, as he announced his intention to appoint an employee in the city clerk’s office to the city treasurer post, questions from one aldermen led to considerable discussion.
At the council’s April 29 meeting, those city officials who were elected on April 9 will be sworn into office. Those include Gottman, who will be serving a fourth term as mayor, and Peggy Bowen, who will begin her fifth term as city clerk.
Others who will be sworn in are three incumbent aldermen who were re-elected – Jerry Swarm in Ward I, Mike Hobler in Ward III and Andy Lester in Ward IV – and Dorothy Crawford, who was elected to a Ward II seat.
In announcing that he will be appointing department heads at the next meeting, Gottman said that he plans to appoint a new police chief. The current chief, Larry Eason, has asked not to be re-appointed (See separate story).
Gottman also announced that he plans to appoint Alyssa Matar, an employee in Bowen’s office who has been performing many of the treasurer duties, to that post.
Last July, the council voted unanimously to switch the treasurer’s job from an elected position to an appointed one. They did so over the strong objection of Marjorie Blythe, who is completing her fourth term as treasurer.
In making the change, the council voted to reduce the treasurer’s salary from $14,000 to $4,000.
As Gottman told aldermen that he planned to appoint Matar, Hobler asked whether the treasurer work would “take away from the duties we’re paying her to do now.”
When Alderman Russ Stunkel asked Bowen whether Matar’s appointment would work out for her office, “as far as being functional,” Bowen said, “We’ll have to see.”
As the discussion continued, Swarm said, “I thought that we had this all hashed out when we decided to go with a part-time treasurer.”
Bowen said she doesn’t anticipate any problems with all of the work being done.
“The biggest thing will be the (annual) treasurer’s report,” Bowen said, adding that she’s hoping that Blythe will help her and Matar learn the aspects of the job that they don’t already know. If not, she may have to turn to treasurers in other cities.
“I think we can get it done,” Bowen said about the workload. “If not, we can bring it back here (to the council).”
As Hobler continued to question the appointment, Alderman Neil Clark asked aldermen to remember that prior to the council making the change, they had Blythe list all of her duties.
At a meeting, Clark said, he questioned her about each of the duties. Clark said that as a result of that meeting, “it became clear to me that she didn’t do much.
“That’s why I supported that we switch to an appointed treasurer,” he said.
Hobler contended that Bowen’s office has been working short-handed to the point that the city hired a part-time employee. “Are we going to create another monster?”
Gottman told Hobler that he had talked to Matar about the workload. “She says she can get it done.”
The mayor said that Matar’s only concern was whether she, as a new mother, would be required to attend meetings. Gottman said he told her that it was not an issue.
Also at Monday’s meeting:
• Gottman announced that he will be setting up a meeting to plan the schedule for streetscape improvements in the 100 and 200 blocks of South Fourth Street.
He said that owners of businesses in those two blocks will be invited and encouraged to give input on such things as where in the two-block section the work will begin.
• The council agreed to pay Vandevanter Engineering of Decatur and St. Louis $21,012 for a new control panel and all related work for the lift station on West Main Street.
• The council voted to file with the Illinois Department of Transportation requests for two temporary closures of Gallatin Street downtown.
The first closure, for the 300 block of Gallatin, would be from 2 p.m. on Friday, May 17, through 7 a.m. on Saturday, May 18, for an Armed Forces Tribute being planned by the Vandalia Tourism Commission.
The second closure, for Third Street to Sixth Street, is for the National Road Festival on Friday and Saturday, June 14-15.
• Gottman reported that Mike Wehrle had told him that he had signed a contract with Little Caesar’s Pizza. The pizza chain will be operating out of a building in Wehrle’s business complex on Veterans Avenue.
• Gottman also reported that he had talked to the owner of Mama Antonio’s, a business formerly operated out of a building in the 500 block of West Gallatin Street. The mayor said he was told that the owner is planning to re-open the business.