Chrisman is pro-district

Council wants ambulance district; OKs zone expansion, falters over staff pay increase

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CHRISMAN – The Chrisman City Council endorsed a plan Monday, June 17, to create a special service area in northern Edgar County capable of taxing to underwrite ambulance service for the area.

“This is going to show us who is in favor of creating a special service area – it doesn’t set one up,” said Robert Morris, who serves as the Chrisman City attorney and legal counsel for the Northern Edgar County Ambulance Service (NECAS).

Morris said the suggested tax rate is 20 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

NECAS was originally created in the late 20th century as a volunteer operation, but times have changed. Volunteers are no longer readily available and the need to hire people for staffing the ambulance is a major expense the current funding stream cannot support.

City council member Rodney Wolfe is the city’s representative to the NECAS board. He said failure to establish the special service area means NECAS will be out of money by the end of the year for providing ambulance service to Chrisman, Metcalf and Hume plus Ross, Prairie, Brouilletts Creek, Edgar, Shiloh and Young America townships.

Wolfe added the city of Chrisman can decide not to participate in a special service area but opting out means NECAS does not have to provide ambulance service in the city if the special service area is created.

“We would have to enter a contract with either Paris or Georgetown, and we would still have to pay,” said Wolfe.

The city council voted unanimously for the resolution supporting the creation of an ambulance special service area.

Council members also unanimously approved expanding the Edgar County Enterprise Zone that stretches from Kansas through Paris and to Chrisman. The expansion takes in approximately 15 acres at Horace and benefits the growth of The Equity operation with a new building and the addition of approximately 25 new jobs.

Michael Martin, Edgar County Enterprise Zone administrator, said the Paris City Council and the Edgar County Board previously signed off on the change, and the enterprise zone is on the July agenda for the Kansas Village Board meeting

Martin said approval by all of the jurisdictions involved is only one part of the process.

“The state has the final say if the boundaries can be amended,” said Martin.

A six-month pay review for city clerk Deena Burns and city treasurer Brittaney Kindred was on the agenda.

Commissioner Tyler Alexander spoke in favor of giving the two employees a $2 per hour raise, noting they have taken on the extra duty of handling the Chrisman Public Library’s financial records.

Burns told the commissioners she checked with similar size cities and the pay for clerks and treasurers ranges between $16 and $18 an hour with 100 percent paid health insurance. The clerk is currently paid $14 and the treasurer gets $11.50, and the city pays 90 percent of the health insurance premium.

“The city is way behind what it pays its employees,” said Burns.

Wolfe acknowledged the office employees do a good job, but he spoke against a $2 per hour increase. He said it is not just simply providing $2 more. The higher income also obligates the city to pay more into the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. He pointed out the city made a significant increase in the amount of money paid into the health insurance premiums for employees earlier in the year, which he said amounted to a substantial pay raise for the workers.

Alexander moved to increase the pay of the clerk and treasurer by $2 an hour.

“It brings it up to just the bottom of what other municipalities are paying,” Alexander said.

Alexander and commissioner Brian Haddix voted yes for the pay raise. Wolfe and commissioner Thad Crispin voted no. Mayor Dan Owen was not present to cast a tie-breaking vote so the effort to provide a pay bump for the office staff failed.