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New mayor takes over in Pierce City

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

(Photo)
Carol Hirsch received a token of appreciation for her years of service to Pierce City at Monday's city council meeting, presented by incoming mayor Allen Stockton. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
New leadership was sworn in at the regular meeting of the city council in Pierce City this week. Voter approval of new sales taxes offered new financial options at the same time a major changeover in police staff created new personnel issues to address.

Outgoing Mayor Carol Hirsch swore in Allen Stockton as the new mayor. Prior to that aldermen accepted Stockton's resignation as Ward Two alderman.

Sworn back into office were aldermen Scott Wahl from Ward Two and Larry Bartkoski from Ward Three. Alderman David Jones was named as the new mayor pro-tem.

Hirsch said Ward One Alderman John Archer was working in Oklahoma City this week and will be sworn in at a later date. Stockton's Ward Two seat will be open to be filled by appointment.

Larry Carver, who received the one write-in vote for the vacant Ward Four seat, declined to serve because he continues to travel frequently. Former Ward Four alderman Willie Parks had come by city hall earlier in the day to say he was taking the job as rural fire chief in Girard, Kan., and planned to move there soon.

Accepting results of the April 8 election included recognition that three new sales taxes passed. The combined taxes should bring around $70,000 of additional revenue to the city.

City Clerk Julie Johnson cautioned the money would not come in quickly. Disbursements from the Missouri Department of Revenue would begin around November and full monthly payments would probably not kick in until 2011.

Aldermen spent much of the meeting considering how new financial options could resolve old issues.

Police officers resign

One issue that did not wait for the influx of funds is city staffing. Police had been cut to 35 hours a week until Officer Chris Marbut left in January, putting the remaining three officers back to 40 hours.

Chief Mike Abramovitz announced at Monday's meeting that his other officers were leaving. Sergeant Sharon Black was taking the job as chief in Sarcoxie, where she lives. Tom Misner was taking a systems anaylst position with a security firm.

Stockton asked Abramovitz if he had any plans. The chief said he intended to stay. Interviews have started for replacements. With Abramovitz as the only remaining officer, Johnson said the city may have to call on the Lawrence County Sheriff's Department to fill in until new officers were hired.

Other city employees all remain on reduced hours. Aldermen scheduled a special meeting for 7 p.m. on April 29 to address the budget. The new fiscal year starts on May 1.

"I'd love to [return the staff to full-time] tomorrow," Stockton told The Times. "Just as soon as we feel we are able to, we're going to, as far as I'm concerned."

Pool status

Gordon Brown, executive director of the Monett Area YMCA, presented options for having the Y run the Pierce City pool this year, a decision previously postponed due to funding. Brown said the YMCA's quoted price of $8,000 is $2,000 more than the 2009 price due to unexpected costs. However, the pool had a 20 percent increase in use under YMCA management.

The price could be reduced to $6,000, Brown said, if the pool opened an hour later this year at 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Sunday hours would stay the same at 1 to 5 p.m. If the city delayed opening by a week, until June 7, the cost could be dropped to $5,000.

Funding remained contingent upon the Pierce City R-6 School District providing $1,500 that had been used for summer school. Brown said even though summer school will not be held this year, the school district's money for the pool came from a separate fund.

Pool attendance was relatively steady for each day, Brown said. Cutting a day was seen as less advantageous than reducing daily hours. Staying open later on Friday and closing earlier on Saturday seems to best accommodate crowds and pool rentals.

"I think this is something we can probably work with," said Jones. "We must know what the school will do first."

A decision by the end ofApril would be important for the YMCA's planning, Brown said. Staff could be trained fairly quickly but gearing up in time would be tight. The pool was added to the April 29 meeting agenda.

Water issues

Stockton reported the city had incurred a $16,000 bill for for having sewage pumped out of the main lift station after the sump pump failed while the second pump was out for maintenance. The city's insurance had agreed to pay the pumping cost. Changes would be made, Stockton said, to prevent the problem from happening again.

The 17-foot sewer line behind the Lakin Funeral Home collapsed, causing another major expense. Stockton said a trackhoe had to be used, which will now require sidewalk repairs.

Department reports

Chief Abramovitz reported officers made four arrests on warrants in March. Four stealing incidents, three assaults and a sexual misconduct incident were investigated.

Wastewater operator Keith Coggin reported working with former operator Sam Corley to apply for a modified wastewater permit.

Hirsch says farewell

By MURRAY BISHOFF

Words of appreciation were exchanged at the city council meeting in Pierce City as Mayor Carol Hirsch stepped down after 15 years of public service, including 12 years as mayor.

Hirsch read a statement before swearing in her successor:

"I want to say 'Thank you Pierce City," Hirsch said. "I've always said when the people we serve know the importance of a vote they come through. Thank you for one of the hardest working city councils I have ever known. And thank you to each and every one of the staff who work for the city, police department, fire department and all the many volunteers who have helped the city in more ways than I can count.

"We've been through some real good times and some really tough times, especially in the last seven years," Hirsch said. "Some of this council has been serving the city through the entire rebuilding of Pierce City. And last, thanks for letting me serve again as mayor of my favorite city."

Hugs were exchanged as Hirsch prepared to depart after the swearing-in ceremony. Stockton presented Hirsch with a trophy-sized token of appreciation from the council that read:

"Carol, To an extraordinary lady who has dedicated herself to the place of her birth;

"For your years of hard work for the betterment of Pierce City, and

"For serving as the Ambassador for Pierce City, and

"For your 15 years of service as major and alderman, we thank you for your tireless work."

"The Citizens of Pierce City, April 2010."



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