Mon, Jan

Jerome discusses residency issue


Home is where the job is.

Jerome Town Council met May 9 and discussed whether to keep the mandate that five positions in city governments be occupied by residents. 

The positions in question are town manager, town clerk, fire chief, police chief and public works. Town code requires those positions have a town resident.

The first position that was debated for leniency was public works. Though the position may not seem as on call as the fire or police chief, councilman Lew Courrier expressed his desire to keep the director around, as he is needed when water lines break, which can and has happened in the middle of the night, as Courrier recalled. When the position was filled by someone even on the other end of the Verde Valley, the wait can compound the problem.

Both Jerome Fire Chief Rusty Blair and Jerome Police Chief Allen Muma said they felt their successors should be residents, as they are. Muma said that it helps him get to know his constituents, and provide better service as a result. Blair said it helps familiarize him with response routes, fire hydrant locations and potential hazards, all of which may not be seen by an outside chief as readily.

The town clerk was also discussed as potentially not having to reside in town limits, due to the requirement already on the town manager, and there was no real objection. This was a discussion item, however, so no action was taken on any position.

The issue had come before council at Mayor Frank Vander Horst’s request, and as he brought up the issue, he noted the problems of available talent pool in Jerome and adequate compensation to live in the town.

Muma agreed that in the future, some positions may require salary increases to get the right person, but that as a resident, he said it was worth the benefit.

Another problem with requiring these positions to live in Jerome are the number of available houses on the market at any given time. Vice Mayor Jay Kinsella said at the time that it was around as many as the fingers on one of his hands.

In the past, as was the case with Muma, housing assistance was provided in addition to regular pay, but council expressed concern over legal issues. 

Another idea was to have the town purchase a house to be provided to new hires in these positions, though it was not elaborated on.

Courrier was confident that the situation was work out.

“It’s cosmic,” he said, noting that whenever the town needed someone for its top appointed positions, it happened. 

Nevertheless, a further idea was given that possibly an extended radius could be granted for certain positions.

Council also addressed its code enforcement. Action may be taken in the future to decriminalize certain parts of the code to keep every violation a criminal misdemeanor. Muma pointed out that in these criminal cases, council has no authority to step in. These infractions can range from safety hazards like lack of handrails on outdoor staircases to town sidewalks and high grass.
To the last note, [fire chief] noted that it should remain a priority to enforce codes that reduce the amount of fuels in the town, particularly in illegal dump areas.

Staff was directed to come up with a list of priorities for enforcement, and council will also examine what codes should be decriminalized, at least on their first offense.

Jerome is looking better on its past year’s budget. As of the meeting, the funds were within 1 percent of balancing, Vander Horst said.

Jerome police will also be auctioning off a 2008 Ford Explorer. It was a civil asset forfeiture truck that spent eight years on the force. Money from the auction will go back into the county forfeiture account and spent according to those laws’ stipulations.

Vander Horst said that he came across a deal for a new-to-the-town sewer truck as well, for a dollar. He said it was the result of a conversation with Yavapai County District 3 Supervisor Randy Garrison, who will sell it from the county.

Jerome also declared the week police week [check actual week on agenda] and thanked Muma for his service. 

Courrier said that in his 45 years as a resident, Muma was the best he’d seen. The rest of the council also shared their praises for his work, noting his closeness with the community and his ability to fit in well in a town as different as Jerome.

“I like to think I’ve done right by them the town],” Muma said.

Council also lamented what the force had looked like prior to Muma’s arrival.

“I don’t like to think about the ineptness back then,” Muma said. 

Though he said it was difficult work, he could be proud of the fact that every decision he had made has the town’s best interest in mind.

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