By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
All city employees will be able to carry over all their vacation time til the end of 2014, the Tucumcari City Commission decided on Thursday.
The commission clarified that the carryover will apply to all employees of the city. At its June 26 meeting, the commission authorized city employees to carry over 120 hours of vacation from one year to the next—the equivalent of three weeks of vacation—instead of the 80 hours previously authorized. This year, however, commissioners agreed, all employees will be able to carry over all their vacation.
The commission approved the measure in response to a request from City Manager Doug Powers. Powers said many city employees, especially police, fire and emergency medical personnel, have been denied opportunities to take vacation, because these departments have been running short of full staffing, and these positions must be manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Powers said some water department and wastewater treatment employees have also had to forego vacation to maintain 24-7 operations.
The commission on Thursday also:
• approved amendments to the city’s open meetings resolution to include regular scheduling of commission meetings on the second and fourth Thursday of each month, ensuring that agendas are made public at least 72 hours before meetings, and allowing commissioners to attend meetings by telephone or, as Mayor Robert Lumpkin did Thursday, by video and audio equipment. Lumpkin appeared by live video from Brooklyn, N.Y., where he is assisting a family member. City officials have been complying with these requirements, but had not included them in the city’s own resolution, City Clerk Angelica Gray said.
• approved the appoinment of Jonathan Brito to the Tucumcari Historic Research Institute board.
In a work session before Thursday’s meeting, the commission discussed how to cover per-day expenses for commmissioners when they must travel on city business. Currently, commissioners and city employees may choose between a flat $85 per travel day payment; a pre-travel payment based on itemized, anticipated expenses, which are settled up after the travel event; or reimbursement, in which the commissioner or employee pays expenses while traveling, then receives reimbursement upon turning in travel receipts.
At the work session, Lumpkin also proposed ensuring that pay levels are competitive for city employees whose job requires special licensing, such as water system and wastewater treatment operators, and police and fire employees.
“Sometimes it’s hard to find people with these qualifications to work in Tucumcari,” Lumpkin said.
It also becomes difficult to retain some of these employees when other communities make them more lucrative offers.
Lumpkin also said during the work session that he would like the commission to take action on his proposal to divert some gross receipts tax funding currently reserved for procuring water supplies from Ute Lake for two years to a special fund that would fund the final destruction and disposal of the Sands Dorsey building. The building has lain in ruins since 2007 in downtown Tucumcari. Lumpkin said that the temporary diversion would raise $500,000 that could be complete the building’s disposal and perhaps include other potentially hazardous abandoned properties in the city.