Salem freezes city salaries, appoints new city clerk
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
SALEM — There will be no salary increases for Salem city employees during the next fiscal year (the fiscal year runs from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014).
During Tuesday night’s regular council meeting, council members voted to freeze employee’s salaries. Technically, the freeze impacts only a couple of employees.
The community also has its third city clerk in as many years. The council approved the hiring of Rhonda White of Salem as the new clerk. White also was given the oath of office by Mayor Linda Ward.
White, a former bank employee, begins her duties May 20 and will start at a salary of $850 a month.
Current City Clerk Brenda Carver submitted her resignation during the April council meeting, effective May 15. Carver said there were seven applicants for the clerk’s position.
A presentation on the owner-occupied housing rehabilitation program by Dan Eberhart of the Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission (SEIRPC) took the majority of the meeting.
The owner-occupied program is administered by the Iowa Economic Development Authority and involves federal funds to assist communities in developing a housing rehabilitation program for low- to moderate-income residents.
“It is a very competitive program,” Eberhart told the council. “It is a nice program. Sometimes you don’t see the results because most of the work is being done on the inside (of house). It has been a very effective program.”
One of the reasons for the competitive nature of the program is that federal funding has been slashed nearly in half in recent years — from $13 million to approximately $7 million — according to Eberhart.
SEIRPC is proposing that Salem apply for funding that would enable a minimum of six owner-occupied homes become eligible for rehabilitation. The maximum award for each home is $24,999. An additional $4,500 is available for remediation of lead paint.
Some of the eligibility criteria includes:
• Applicant must own the home and have occupied the residence for a six-month period;
• Must live in the city limits;
• Must not exceed 80 percent of area median income;
• Must have home insured, property taxes paid and be in compliance of all city ordinances;
• Must be willing to have a five-year forgivable lien on the property.
Income guidelines include a maximum income of $33,500 for a one-person household; $38,300 for two members; $43,100 for three members; $47,850 for four members, etc.
The grant money will be funded through the city with the city paying the contractor. The award recipient must live in the house for five years for the loan to be completely forgiven. If the owner sells or rents the home within that five-year period, he/she will be required to pay back the balance of the loan which is pro-rated over a five-year period.
SEIRPC will write the grant at no charge and also would like to administer the grant at a fee of $1,000 per home. The fee would be paid through the grant funds.
Grants are awarded in February. Eberhart said if the city wants to apoply for the grant, “we can probably get started later this summer.” The application is due Dec. 1, 2013, for the 2014 funding year.
In other action, Mayor Ward’s affirmative vote was needed to break a 2-2 deadlock on a service agreement for technical support on the city’s water billing program.
Carver recommended paying $540 for the annual agreement. “I used it a lot in my first year and with a new city clerk, I think it would be good to have,” she said.
Councilmen Bill Wixom Jr. and Bruce Eltrich voted for the agreement, and Chuck Kramer and Warren Barton opposed it.
The council meets again in regular session Tuesday, June 4, at 7 p.m. in the Community Center.