By STEVE JONES Staff writer
The Common Council will meet on Wednesday, after cancelling its Jan. 28 meeting due to a snow storm. It will include a public hearing on a proposed alternative energy moratorium, setting up a hearing for Feb. 25 on a proposed wage freeze for the council and council president, and there’s a new proposal to start a reserve account dedicated to workers’ compensation funds.
The seven-member council will meet at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.
Before the regular meeting starts, there is a 7:15 public hearing for a proposed moratorium on wind turbines and other alternative energy systems in Rome. The proposal calls for a six-month hold on any plans for wind turbines and "other alternative energy systems" in the city. Councilor Ramona L. Smith, D-4, says the local law that would prevent "installation, placement and construction" of wind turbines, wind generators and solar thermal panels. It would allow the city time to "formulate a comprehensive regulatory approach to regulate the location and number of such alternative energy systems." The city, the legislation states, needs to "update its comprehensive plan and land use regulations to address the new circumstances posed by the construction, installation and placement" of these systems. The city has practically no language in its zoning code on how to regulate these systems, including where they are allowed.
Introduced after the January cancellation is legislation to establish a reserve account dedicated to workers’ compensation funds. Treasurer John A. Nash is proposing the account. It will allow the city to "have money ‘in the bank’ to make some settlements. We have a number of cases outstanding. The concept is to have money like the capital reserve — money set aside."
The city has been self-insured on workers’ compensation cases since the start of last year. The amount the city paid last year was not immediately available. There will be no vote on Nash’s proposal at the Wednesday meeting. The council must first set a public hearing for residents to comment on the concept. The council will likely schedule the hearing for the night of its next meeting — Wednesday, Feb. 25.
Also on the agenda is the proposal to set a public hearing for the proposed wage freeze for the council and the council president this year at 2008 levels. To share the budget crunch with other city employees who will take a salary freeze, the council and president have volunteered to do the same.
What is proposed is freezing the salaries of the seven councilors and Council President John J. Mazzaferro at their 2008 levels. The councilors are John M. Sparace, R-1; Thomas A. Varano, R-2; Angela B. Petty, D-3; Smith; Ronald Casadei, R-5; Anthony E. Darcangelo, R-6; and Philip J. Vescio III, R-7.
Councilors were paid $9,196 in 2008. They would make $9,656 this year if the freeze is not instituted. Mazzaferro was paid $12,260 last year. He would be paid $12,873 this year if there’s no freeze.
The proposal follows the administration calling for a freeze of salaries for a group of non-union employees the council passed at its Jan. 14 meeting. One freeze was for Mayor James F. Brown’s salary. The other was for mayoral chief of staff, mayoral secretary, treasurer and deputy treasurer, the three city attorneys and two law office secretaries, assessor, Public Works commissioner, chief codes officer, director of Community and Economic Development, public safety commissioner, Weed & Seed program coordinator, fire chief and one deputy fire chief.
The freezing of the 26 salaries will save Rome taxpayers $65,475 in the $42.6 million municipal budget.