The Cherokee City Council, on a vote of three to two, decided to retain a vacant lot. The decision at the Tuesday meeting of the council came two weeks after establishing a minimum bid of $1,000 for the lot which is now used for public parking.
The one bid submitted for the property was unopened after the council decided to retain the property.
The city had put the property up for bid in 2003, setting a minimum bid of $12,750. Robert "Ben" Jobe submitted the only bid at that time for $1,000. Jobe is the owner of Jobe's Pastime Lounge, which is next to the parking lot.
Recently, Jobe asked the council to reconsider sale of the lot (actually two lots treated as one for purposes of potential sale) and to reconsider the minimum bid.
It was noted at the Tuesday meeting that building demolition and related work on the lot had cost the city about $37,000.
It had been noted previously that because material remains buried under the lot, excavation might be needed in order to put a structure on the property. Footings might even prevent surfacing the lot.
At the Tuesday meeting, Bill Troth, council member, said the city should not be in a hurry to get rid of the property after investing so much in it.
Marty Zauhar, council member, said that parking space is needed downtown.
Doug Woods, council member, said that he drives by the lot on a daily basis and often sees only one car parked there.
Troth suggested that the lot might need to be paved.
"So you're going to stick more money in it?" Woods asked.
Ron Johnson, council member, said that the property should be returned to the tax rolls.
Regarding what he would do with the property, Jobe said he didn't know. A parking lot, a new building and a beer garden were possibilities mentioned.
Troth, Zauhar and Dwight Varce voted in favor of a motion for the city to retain the property. Woods and Johnson voted against that motion.
On a four to one vote, the council voted to relieve police officers of a requirement that they pay $10 each pay period toward family health insurance.
The collective bargaining unit for the police department, the Cherokee Policeman's Association (CPA), had agreed to the payroll deductions with the understanding that the members of the other collective bargaining unit representing city workers would do the same.
However, the other bargaining unit wouldn't go along with the idea of employee contributiion toward family health insurance coverage.
Ron Strickland said the CPA agreed that if all other city employees, including those who are represented by the other bargaining unit and those who are not represented by any bargaining unit, have the employee contribution toward health insurance, then the CPA members would start making the same contributions at that time.
The cost of relieving the CPA members from the employee insurance payments would be $1,820 per year, according to Strickland.
Varce opposed relieving the CPA members from the employee insurance payments agreed to in collective bargaining. He said the situation occurred because the city deals with two seperate bargaining units. He said the same problem will occur the next time there is a contract negotiated.
"How can we change now?" Varce asked.
Jim Peck, a citizen in the audience, asked whether city employees get full family coverage. After being told that they do, he said, "That's kind of unheard of."
Zauhar said it would be hard to penalize the police officers because they made a concession that others were not willing to make.
Strickland indicated that next year, the city will likely have to go all the way through arbitration on the health insurance issue, a process that costs both the city and the bargaining unit money.
A motion to remove the employee deductions for health insurance was approved with only Varce voting against that motion.
On a four to one vote, the council voted to approve a motion to establish fees to commercial properties for fire calls and then voted four to one to waive the third reading of that ordinance. In both cases, Varce was the sole dissenting voter.
The board voted to approve the lowest of three bids for a Victory Drive grading and storm sewer project.
Deer Valley Construction had the low bid of $15,962. All three bids came in under the engineer's estimate of $22,205.
It was estimated that about $2 million has been donated or pledged toward the aquatic center/Gillette Park project. Pledge cards are available at city hall.
An annual tool and equipment lease with Duane Mummert was approved for $1,000.