The Cherokee City Council's agenda item to consider an on-going tool lease with City Parks Superintendent Duane Mummert became a possible moot point after the meeting, despite the fact the Council voted 4-1 in favor of continuing the lease.
An irritated Mummert, who said he has been fighting the lease issue for the past 18 months with former Councilman Dwight Varce and current Councilman Greg Stieneke, was summoned to an April 22 Council meeting to discuss the matter.
Mummert told the Council he was tired of fighting the lease battle and simply wanted a "yes" or a "no" from the City. "I'm not going to answer any more questions or try to explain myself any more. I've done that for the past 18 months and I'm sick of it," said Mummert.
Mummert has had a long-standing tool lease agreement with the city for $1,000 per year, which is renewed each year and has been for more than the past 10 years, according to City Clerk Deb Taylor.
The lease agreement spells out the facts that Mummert provides necessary tools and equipment for City employees to work with, subject to his authority. The City admits in the lease that it "Does not have a sufficient budget to purchase the necessary tools and equipment to be used by employees to fulfill their jobs...and that Mummert has the tools and equipment that would meet the requirements of the City."
The tools and equipment the City has agreed to lease from Mummert total $50,929.40, according to the attached inventory list. The lease also reads that Mummert provides insurance coverage for the value of the tools and equipment through his homeowners insurance, and that he is responsible for payment of the premium.
He is also responsible for the care and maintenance of the tools and equipment and they remain in his possession, even if City employees may use them on the job.
The lease agreement also reads that the liability for the use of the tools and equipment is on the City. Tools damaged or lost through use by City employees will be replaced by the City at no extra cost to Mummert.
Before approving the lease renewal Tuesday night, Councilman Bob Leach said the City must budget for and start purchasing equipment City employees and various departments need. He also recognized the budget crunch the City has been in the past several years.
After Mummert left, the Council then approved the lease agreement 4-1, with Stieneke voting against it.
However, in a phone call to the Chronicle Times Wednesday morning, Mummert said after the meeting Tuesday night, that he returned to City Hall and told Mayor Denny Henrich, and Councilmembers Mick Mallory and Jim Peck in the parking lot that he "was all done" with the lease agreement.
"I'm pulling the plug. I don't need this grief," said Mummert, who, along with most of the Council, maintains that the City is getting a great bargain at $1,000 per year for all the tools and equipment Mummert provides.
"Among some of the equipment is my skid loader and portable welder we've used for city work constantly," explained Mummert. "I don't know how we'd get along without them. "I just had over $5,000 worth of equipment at the park (Gillette) pouring concrete."
Through Thursday, Mummert had yet to sign the lease agreement approved by the Council Tuesday night. It is hoped things will cool down and the City will be able to visit with Mummert in the near future to hopefully iron out the problem.
As it stands, the annual lease agreement has officially been renewed by the City for one more year, pending Mummert's signature to finalize it. To undo that, the Council would have to place the item on a future agenda and vote again on the matter.
In other action, the Council also accepted the resignation of Jon Peterson, a "valued" City employee who has retired after 28 years with the City. "We sure appreciate Jon's years of service to the City," said Councilmember Linda Burkhart.
The Council discussed the possibility of not replacing Peterson, who worked at the sewer plant, but verbally decided against it due to the importance and complexities of that department and the need for sufficient personnel to do the required work.
At the Mayor's request, the Council also will begin exploring what to do about the many dilapidated private garages in dire disrepair in the community that are a safety issue.
"It's a growing problem and the property owners are unwilling or unable to repair or tear them down," said Henrich. "The City could tear them down, but the disposal fees are cost-prohibitive."
The Council agreed to survey the community in the future and note how many and where such garages, houses, and other out-buildings are.
The Council also approved adding $1,350 to the Police Department budget to help cover the cost of a new Ford Explorer to replace a three-year old Explorer with high mileage and in need of repairs and tires. With trade-in, the new vehicle cost $13,850 from Rasmussen Ford in Cherokee.
Other bids for other vehicles also were considered, but they were either higher priced, or smaller than an Explorer, which would force the City into replacing its police equipment (light bars, cages, radios, etc.)at greater cost to fit the other vehicles bid.