By Nick Worth
Holbrook Councilman Wade Carlisle spoke up in defense of the council’s recent actions regarding insurance for City Manager Ray Alley at Tuesday’s council meeting.
“I have had citizens complain to me about the deal we made with Ray Alley,” Carlisle said. “I don’t know if it wasn’t clear in the newspaper that Manager Alley will get one month of insurance coverage for each month he works.”
Carlisle was referring to an agreement the council made with Alley, providing him with medical insurance after he retires until such time as he is eligible for state retirement. Under the agreement, Alley foregoes all raises in pay, including the $4,000 raise for each city employee included in next year’s proposed budget.
In exchange, the council agreed to provide insurance coverage for Alley and his wife at the rate of one month of coverage for every month he works until his retirement from the city.
Carlisle said some citizens had approached him and complained about the deal.
“I told them Ray has been responsible for putting in a new water well in town, a well at Sun Valley, the elevated water tank, the cleanup of the old Northland Pioneer College campus, the abatement of 15 to 20 old buildings around town, upgrading our roads, some of which had never even been bladed before, and McLaws Road will be paved this summer all the way to the city limits,” Carlisle told the council.
He also noted that Alley serves as the public works director, saving the city at least $45,000 in salary for that position and that at slightly over $90,000 per year salary as city manager, he is being paid about $30,000 less than is the norm for city managers in the area.
“Ray uses his own truck for his service truck and his own welder,” Carlisle said. “He has also saved the city enough money that we can pay off our loan from the Bank of the West.
“Ray has brought in more retail businesses than any other city manager in years,” Carlisle continued. “He was doing economic development even before he was city manager.
“I tell those who complain that the savings Ray Alley has made and brought to the city have paid for the insurance,” Carlisle added. “Everything is running as clean as can be and we’re in pretty good shape.”
“I hope the citizens of Holbrook don’t think we take these decisions lightly,” said Mayor Jeff Hill. “There is a review process we go through before deciding on something like this.”
The council also heard from Jerrie Paschal of the Holbrook Planning and Zoning Committee and the Horsehead Crossing group about the possible sale of the Henning Block, which includes the historic Bucket of Blood Saloon.
“Because of social media contacts, we have some people interested in purchasing the Henning Block, which includes the Bucket of Blood Saloon,” said Paschal. “We need to know if the property is even for sale and how to go about it.”
Alley told the council the facades of the buildings are about all that’s left.
“I don’t think they’re even restorable,” he said. “They would need to restore the facades and preserve them.”
Alley also pointed out the city does not have the money to do the work.
“We need to determine what our expectations are for these buildings,” Hill told the council.
Carlisle said he would like to see the facades of the buildings preserved.
“I don’t care what’s behind them, even if it’s a metal building,” Carlisle said. “If there’s a group with the wherewithal, in other words, the money, I’d rather not take one nickel from them and would prefer to have them spend all their money on the preservation.”
Paschal told the council the group in question wants to hire an engineer to inspect the buildings and make recommendations about the preservation work needed.
Hill noted the buildings have significant value and history, but stressed the need for caution.
“If someone came in and started and then couldn’t finish, or who weren’t who they said they were, we wouldn’t have the money to finish the work,” Hill said. “We need to be careful.”
The council then asked Alley to outline what the town would want in preservation work and to work with the engineer the proposed buyers want to hire.
In other business May 21, the council:
* Heard an update from Alley on road paving in the city.
* Heard from Alley that an accidental fire on Georgia Street had burned down a two-story house that was scheduled for abatement.
* Heard from City Clerk Cher Reyes that the handicap lifts are in place at the Holbrook Swimming Pool, and that the pool will open at 1 p.m. on Monday, May 27. Reyes said all the classes and activities at the pool should be up and running by June 3.
* Heard from Alley that two new booster pumps have been installed on the water tank. The new pump motors have an efficiency rating of 95 percent and should eliminate water hammer problems. The pumps being replaced are 30 years old, Alley told the council.
* Hear that an influent pump at the wastewater treatment plant has failed. One pump is still in operation and backup portable pumps have been prepared in case they are needed.
* Discussed the purchase of an influent pump to replace the one that failed at the wastewater treatment plant. Alley told the council the motor had gone to ground and an electrical firm is rewiring the failed motor.
* Discussed the proposed city budget.
Vice Mayor Charles Haussman asked Alley why budget caps have been put in place.
Alley explained that every four years the city has to vote on home rule, which allows it to set its own budget.
City Finance Director Randy Sullivan told the council he and Alley thought there were capital expenses that could be exempted, but found out too late that was not the case. The state has now put a $6.8 million spending cap on the city’s budget.
Alley told the council there will still be approximately $400,000 for parks, road work and other uses.
* Awarded a $21,878.74 contract to purchase a Toro rough mower for Hidden Cove Golf Course.
* Awarded a $22,966.87 contract to purchase a Kubota Weed Buggy, which is needed to spray for weeds and insects.
* Approved the purchase of a new gas pump for the airport for $6,137.12.
Alley told the council the pump will integrate with a credit card reader, but that the cost of the reader was high enough it needed a formal bid process. The new aviation gas pump will replace the 30-year-old one currently in use at the airport.
* Heard the first reading of an ordinance authorizing the sale of some city-owned property to Paul and Robin Gonzales.
Carlisle asked Alley to check into the status of a bordering piece of property he thought the city had transferred title to in the past.
* Approved a memorandum of understanding with the Northern Arizona Council of Governments for roadway signage upgrades.
* Heard a presentation from B.J. Hulsey regarding his plans to open a fitness center in Holbrook.
Hulsey said he wants to provide a healthy and safe environment for youth and for the citizens of the city. He asked the council to consider providing equipment for the facility until such time as he can purchase it.
Mayor Hill reminded Hulsey the council could not act on his request because it was not on the agenda, but invited him to talk to the councilmen about putting it on the agenda for a future meeting.
By Nick Worth