City Council: retirement rings revisited

Cambridge seal
CAMBRIDGE — Monday’s consent calendar (the agenda’s list prepared for commissioners to approve activities requiring permits for noise and street closings), included a Zion Baptist Church cookout on Sept. 10, an Appreciation Day BBQ on Sept. 23, eight minutes of fireworks at the Hyatt on Sept.13, an event held by RAR Brewing on Sept. 10 with a closing of Gay Street for seven hours, and the big Summer Sendoff on Sept. 10 from 5 to 10 p.m., with street closings from 3 to 11 p.m.

One item, the Eastern Shore Area Health Center, staging a Health Fair, and asking for a street closing on Race Street, between Muir and Poplar streets, met with objections from Ed Johnson, a new owner of the Wine Bar on Race Street. Just opened under new management this summer, Mr. Johnson complained of the frequent closing of Race Street and the negative impact on his business. The policy on the closings is unwritten, and the commissioners have agreed to formulate a written policy for future events that will apply to street closings sought by organizations.

Sailwinds is still “in irons.” The council tabled the decision about a Market Feasibility Study, which the city manager recommended, a contract with Delta Associates for $32,500. The council requires further study before making a decision. Some of the members are new. On the last night of the former council, the majority of those commissioners voted to leave the decision to the new council. Former Commissioner Gage Thomas objected, saying they had the background, had put in the time, and the decision was legitimately before them. To no avail. So two more months go by.

The council voted to set a work session on Sept. 19 to examine the question of a reserve policy, an important and comprehensive policy, and “discuss the big picture” concepts that guide a policy. What that means is establishing a policy that insures the fiscal health of the city, that in times of economic downturns and natural disasters, the city has money in reserve and won’t go broke during a calamity. That means setting goals for long term projects and prudently setting spending limits to keep money for unexpected expenditures. Twenty percent of the operating budget is a suggested goal for reserves.

A study by Finance Director Ginger Heatwole, examined the various funds the city has to create a reserve policy. These include the General Fund, The Municipal Utilities Commission, the Sewer Fund, the Marina Fund, and the internal service funds.

The semi-annual report by Police Chief Dan Dvorak was read to the commissioners. The chief’s three categories were Youth, Crime Prevention, and Police Administration. The events that target children have been well-attended, and visible. City groups and businesses have also had a measure of involvement and the result has been a closer link to the community. Commissioner La-Shon Foster believes, “The activities are giving a different view of police. It gives connectivity. You see smiles on the kids and the parents are amazed. You can hear the people talking about it.”

A thorny subject came up at the meeting’s end. Commissioner Donald Sydnor produced a copy of a city document which spelled out the standard operating procedure on the retirement of department heads with 30 years experience. The document spelled out the city policy supposed to present special commemorative rings upon retirement. At a memorable council meeting in January 2015, (the case of Edward Kinnamon,) the majority of the council voted the rings down as excessively expensive. It seems they didn’t have the right to ignore city policy. The controversy was a bitter pill for many. With Commissioner Sydnor’s dramatic unveiling of the document, the city has to go back and resolve the issue.

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