Edgewood’s police chief Ron Crow is retiring, and leaving the department in August.
That retirement, along with the recent retirement of roads supervisor Norton Henninger and upcoming retirement of Dora Garcia, who is leaving at the end of the month, means the town has positions to fill, even as its budget is facing the uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus.
At its regular meeting June 11, Edgewood’s divided government fell into its now-familiar lines as the council and mayor discussed whether to promote Amelia Alderete to the position of accounting assistant.
Councilor Sherry Abraham made a motion to table the item either to the next meeting or to a date after the special session of the Legislature to be held June 18 to address the impact on the state’s funds of a precipitous drop in the price of oil and gas.
The Legislature is widely expected to “claw back” any funding that has been allocated, but not yet spent or encumbered. Another potential hit to Edgewood’s budget could come in the form of what is known as “hold harmless.”
When the state took away gross receipts tax from food purchases, it replaced that lost revenue, “holding harmless” the town.
“We’ve already entertained a difficult situation,” said Councilor John Abrams, referring the the town’s most recent audit, which had several findings on it. “We need somebody in there. If we wait, we risk yet another audit finding.”
Councilor Audrey Jaramillo said she is concerned about the budget as well. “We don’t know what’s going to happen to the hold harmless,” she said, adding that Torres “puts together the reports for council anyway.” She also favored holding off not just on promoting Alderete, but in other hires as well.
Edgewood’s clerk-treasurer, Juan Torres, estimated that 90% of the town’s revenue comes from gross receipts tax, and about a third of that is hold harmless.
So far this year, the state has added $1.32 million to the town’s coffers, replacing gross receipts tax that would have been paid on food. The town’s total budget is $4.8 million, Torres said.
Because Alderete is already employed by the town, Councilor Linda Holle said her promotion is not adding a staff person and therefore not a budget concern. “It doesn’t make sense to have someone just covering” the position, Holle said.
Garcia’s last day is June 29.
On a roll call vote, councilors Abraham and Jaramillo voted to table, while Holle and Abrams voted against putting off the decision. Unlike many recent votes, Mayor John Bassett did not break the tie, but instead said the motion failed due to lack of a majority.
“Aren’t you supposed to be the tie-breaker?” Jaramillo asked.
“Not if I don’t want to,” Bassett replied.
“What are we going to do if they take away the hold harmless?” Abraham said. “We’ll be furloughing employees.”
Abrams then made a motion to approve Alderete’s hire in the new position, seconded by Holle.
“We’ve beat this bush several times,” Abrams said, adding that if the “hold harmless doesn’t show up it might have to be drastic.” He said “keeping track of our money” is one of the things the town can do in the meantime.
“Fewer people means doing other people’s jobs—badly,” Abrams said. “We don’t want to do that in the town of Edgewood.”
Holle also opposed waiting to make the hire.
Jaramillo said she agreed the town needs someone responsible in the position, but wanted to change the timing. She made a motion to have Alderete start the new position July 1.
Because there was already a motion on the floor, the mayor asked whether Abrams would allow the later start date as a friendly amendment, to which he agreed. “Why not? I don’t like it but I’ll accept it,” he said.
Following this, the council argued about her salary and job title, and whether the town would need to hire anyone to replace Alderete.
The council voted on Abrams’ motion to approve the hire, with Jaramillo’s amendment of a July 1 start date. The council vote was tied, with Abrams and Holle voting in favor, and Jaramillo and Abraham voting against. In this instance Bassett cast the tie-breaking vote to hire Alderete.
The town will hold a special meeting June 15 at 2 p.m. to discuss the hire of a roads supervisor. It’s next regular meeting is June 24 at 6:30 p.m.; both will be streamed live on The Independent’s Facebook page as coronavirus restrictions continue.
For his part, Crow is retiring after 20 years in law enforcement, and moving to the Knoxville, Tennessee, area, where he has family. He said he plans to leave law enforcement and look for opportunities that give him more time with his family.