Dan Hust | Democrat
VILLAGE MANAGER RAY Nargizian, left, and Monticello Trustee Scott Schoonmaker, center, listen as Trustee TC Hutchins makes a few points about his concerns with Nargizian’s proposed employment contract.
Manager's contract cause for division
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Monday night’s Monticello Village Board meeting began with a plea to keep outbursts to a minimum but quickly became heated over Village Manager Ray Nargizian’s employment contract, among other issues.
Mayor Gordon Jenkins admitted he “did get a little hot” about Nargizian’s return to village employment in a bitterly disputed July 6 vote which he and Trustee TC Hutchins decried.
“It’s up to the taxpayers… instead of me trying to be too aggressive and take it personally on my own,” Jenkins told the audience Monday evening.
He then asked everyone to speak in a respectful manner “no shout-outs, no outbursts.”
Shortly thereafter, he displayed a letter he had written requesting Nargizian to disclose his property holdings in the village and any potential conflicts-of-interest.
Nargizian then gave his manager’s report, beginning by approaching each board member to shake their hand and, as he put it, “extend an olive branch to our mayor.”
“I’ll shake your hand,” replied Jenkins, “… but it would have been nice if me and Mr. Hutchins were part of the process [of your rehiring].”
Hutchins refused to shake Nargizian’s hand, instead asking Village Attorney Jacob Billig if he had seen a copy of Nargizian’s proposed contract just put in board members’ packets that day.
Billig confirmed he had been handed the contract on Friday, when he told Nargizian to pass it by the board. But Billig did not actually read the six-page proposal, stating that he “hadn’t gotten any direction from the board on what to do” with it.
“When I’m authorized to look at it, then I’ll do it,” he said.
Hutchins told Billig not to look at the contract, “because we haven’t even discussed what we would do.”
Trustee Carmen Rue pointed out that Nargizian had essentially copied the contract that had been given to one of his predecessors, Richard Sush.
(A review of Sush’s contract and Nargizian’s proposal confirmed that the only change concerns Nargizian demanding the board follow a hearing officer’s recommendations should he be suspended with pay for cause. Sush’s contract stipulated that the board could choose whether or not to follow a hearing officer’s determination.)
Nargizian added that he had been upfront with Rue in a discussion three weeks ago, saying he would only take the job on terms similar to Sush’s.
“No, we didn’t negotiate anything,” he remarked. “This contract was put in everyone’s box this morning.”
Rue was all for discussing the contract, but Hutchins lamented that a copy of it was already on the streets, having found its way to a pizza place he patronizes.
Billig urged the board to go into executive session about the matter, which it did at the end of the meeting. Nevertheless, no agreement was reached.
However, the resolution approved by three of the five board members hiring Nargizian on July 6 does include terms that remain binding, including a $72,800/year salary plus benefits, along with stipulations about how Nargizian can be fired.
Village applies for millions of dollars in grants, financing
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Monticello Village Board members agreed at Monday’s meeting to officially apply for $10 million worth of grants and financing to pay for a sewage system upgrade, but not without a fight.
In fact, Trustee TC Hutchins, the new deputy mayor, voted against the resolution, citing concerns with where the $8,200 application fee would come from.
In particular, he wondered where $50,000 in “seed money” from the Monticello Raceway had gone and worried that the costs to apply for this federal program would cause further debt for the village.
Village Manager Ray Nargizian, who had worked on obtaining this money during his last stint as manager, angrily replied that he didn’t know where all that money had gone but that that was not the issue at hand.
“For us to make an issue over $8,200, which I’m telling you is seed money, is ridiculous,” he told Hutchins. “.… It’s like winning the lottery and saying, ‘I don’t have the money to pay for the bus to pick up the check’.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Office in Middletown has offered Monticello about $10 million, approximately half of it via a grant and the other half via a low-interest loan, to rehab its aging sewer plant and infrastructure (including pipes).
The village’s consulting engineer, Glenn Gidaly of Barton and Loguidice, pointed out that the village’s upfront costs will be paid out of the sewer fund, which this year racked up a $1 million surplus.
Hutchins replied that he is “all for” the project and the funding but didn’t want to see any monies bonded.
Nevertheless, the board voted 3-1 (Hutchins against, Mayor Gordon Jenkins not voting) in favor of applying, clearing the way for Gidaly to formally seek the $10 million, which he anticipates will indeed be awarded to Monticello.
public input on taxis?
Monticello’s taxi situation will soon come before the public for their input.
Trustees have been unable to find common ground on whether or not to award more medallions (each one allows one more taxi on the village’s streets), what to charge for them, and who to give them to.
So Trustee Scott Schoonmaker recommended the board schedule a public hearing and follow the majority of residents’ wishes, whatever that may be.
The rest of the board agreed, and a hearing on the matter will be held in the village hall on August 3 at 7 p.m.
Wanted (sort of): auditor
The village temporarily remains without one of the auditors it needs to review bills.
At Monday’s meeting, Jenkins attempted to appoint Schoonmaker as auditor, a move made necessary when the mayor stripped Schoonmaker earlier this month of his deputy mayoralty after a bitter battle over Nargizian’s hiring.
As Hutchins is now the deputy mayor, he can no longer serve as one of two auditors (the other being Trustee Victor Marinello).
But Schoonmaker would not accept Jenkins’ appointment on Monday, saying, “I don’t have the time for it.”
Jenkins argued that Schoonmaker could not decline the appointment, but Village Attorney Jacob Billig advised the mayor not to appoint an unwilling auditor.
“So in the meantime, who’s going to audit the bills?” asked Hutchins.
Village Clerk Edith Schop said Marinello could temporarily handle the duties himself, but that removes one of the checks and balances in the system.
Marinello asked Jenkins not to force Schoonmaker, and Trustee Carmen Rue offered her services, but Jenkins declined.
“Do you have a problem with me?” she asked the mayor, who did not respond.
Instead, Jenkins asked Billig to look into the matter and make a recommendation at a future board meeting.
Village to get free review
Robert Tessier of Dykstra Associates, a planning firm out of Goshen, attended Monday’s meeting to offer his company’s services for free.
The gesture is meant to show village officials what the firm is capable of, with Tessier and company hoping it will lead to a formal, paid contract.
In the meantime, Tessier said he’ll be looking at zoning, land use and board relations issues. A report will be made available at a future, unspecified time.
The board unanimously agreed to the offer.
Senecas will have to wait
A resolution authorizing Nargizian to negotiate with the Seneca Nation for water and sewer services was tabled.
No one could recall who asked the resolution to be brought to the board that evening, even though at some point the Senecas will need to talk with village officials about such services for their planned casino in Bridgeville.
Instead, Nargizian will informally approach the Senecas to begin discussions.