3 south suburbs take different paths on village management

2012-09-08T20:15:00Z 2012-09-08T21:49:04Z 3 south suburbs take different paths on village managementBob Moulesong Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
September 08, 2012 8:15 pm  • 

They say it takes a village to raise a child. So what does it take to manage a village?

In recent weeks, three local villages addressed that same question with different answers. While each decision was different, officials in each of the villages think their answer will work just fine for their situation.

In Lansing, the village president and the board decided to hire a full-time village administrator to handle all of the day-to-day operations. J. Wynsma, the former village administrator for South Holland, was hired as Lansing's first village administrator. Wynsma returned to the region after moving with his family from Virginia.

The board voted 6-0 to hire Wynsma and pay him $130,000 for a one-year period beginning Sept. 1.

Lansing decided to restructure its government toward a part-time village president and have an administrator run daily operations.

Meanwhile, Lynwood officials discussed the concept of having a village administrator. Current Village President Gene Williams and the board say the workload will significantly increase with the expansion of Joe Orr Road and the development it will attract.

They decided to forgo a village administrator, and instead expand the duties of the office of village president.

“We discussed the pros and cons of both options,” Williams said. “In the end, we decided to keep the day-to-day operations in the hands of a full-time village president.”

The Village Board adopted an ordinance to expand the responsibilities of the village president effective in April after the next municipal election.

Sauk Village has taken a different road altogether.

The majority of the board thinks daily operations can be divided up and handled by the part-time village president and the part-time board.

“With the help of our department heads, and the collaborative work of the trustees and village president, we can manage the daily operations internally,” Trustee David Hanks said. “We can save the village a lot of money by going this route.”

At last Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved a motion to eliminate the position of village manager Nov. 1.

Not everyone agrees with Hanks’ viewpoint.

Village President Lewis Towers strongly disagrees with the concept of running the village government with part-timers.

“Let the record show that I intend to veto the motion passed by the board,” Towers said after the vote. ”We cannot move the village forward without someone handling the daily operations of government.”

Finances play a critical role in how each government handles the decision.

In Lansing, the village president position will be reduced from full time to part time in April. The salary for the position will be reduced from $110,000 to $15,000. Trustee salaries will be reduced to $13,000.

The money saved will be used to offset the $130,000 contract given to Wynsma.

Wynsma said the salaries paid to elected officials should be viewed more as reimbursement for expenses incurred during municipal service. Lansing Village President Norm Abbot said the job should be viewed as a duty rather than a career.

“We want to look at these posts as a civic job, not the kind that pays a lot of money,” Abbott said.

In Lynwood, the new role of the village president will come with a salary of $85,000, which is a $46,000 increase over the current $39,000.

The same ordinance also will provide trustees with a pay increase, from $2,900 to $3,900 for the part-time positions. The salary of the village clerk will remain the same at $24,400 annually.

The ordinance also allows the flexibility to have a part-time village president at the pay rate of $25,000, with the remainder to be used for a village administrator.

"We allowed that type of flexibility in case other people are in office after the next election," Williams said. "None of this takes effect until after the election in April 2013. The village president and board of trustees who are sworn in will have the option of deciding how they want to organize.”

Sauk Village has serious financial problems, running a deficit this year. The original budget was balanced, but heavy legal costs for internal lawsuits and the costs associated with the well water crisis have put the village in the red.

As a result, according to the board, the village manager position that paid $90,000 plus benefits was eliminated.

“This is a financial decision, not a political one,” Hanks said.

Towers disagreed.

“This village must have a full-time person to handle the day-to-day operation of the village,” Towers said. “The work that our village manager did during the water crisis was incredible. The work she is doing now with the Illinois EPA and the Illinois attorney general must be done every day. We cannot afford not to have a full-time person.”

“We need to study the financial impact of having a full-time village manager on the village finances,” Hanks said. “The current village manager is being paid $90,000 plus benefits. There is a lot of doubt up here that we can afford the money.”

The Sauk Village situation has been in flux for months, and remains that way. Both sides believe the issue will end up in court.

In Lansing and Lynwood, the transitions seem to be going smoothly so far.

The board of trustees in both villages were in unanimous agreement with the changes adopted.

The Lansing board voted 6-0 to hire Wynsma, and 6-0 to reduce their salaries and reclassify the jobs as part-time.

The Lynwood board voted 4-0-1 to approve the village president pay raise, with Trustee Bill Lebeter abstaining because he did not attend the committee meeting when the decision was made.

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