Tuesday, August 11, 2020

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Moab, UT

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Moab
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    Editor,

    There’s been little “splash” about the dismissal of the Moab Recreations and Aquatics Center director and the reclassification of its other two managers as “part-time/no benefits” staff. Folks should really be paying a little closer attention to this move because it was only part of a major reorganization of the City of Moab that was largely done behind closed doors.

    The reductions in force and disassembly of departments was ostensibly carried out because COVID-19 wrecked the city’s budget. However, if you look back in city minutes to late 2019, you’ll see that the city administration and council were repeatedly warned by financial personnel that they were outspending their resources and the reserves were gone.

    It’s no wonder they were in dire straits given the hiring spree, legal fees and raises that occurred during 2016-2019. Add to that the exorbitant raise the city council and mayor gave themselves and you have the recipe for the disaster we’re seeing today. The point here is this: don’t believe the spin the city is giving as the cause for the current budget wreck. Yes, the pandemic is crushing the city, but by the time the pandemic hit, the city was already in deep budgetary trouble.

    I read through about a year of minutes trying to find something about the city reorganization and could find nothing. True, personnel matters are not discussed publicly, but action cannot be taken in executive session. Meetings held with one or two council members to avoid a quorum are also not a good or lawful way to conduct city business. I’m in the process of collecting a list of all the city positions that were eliminated or reclassified, but the public should know this didn’t just hit MRAC. It impacted public works, water, sewer, streets, recreation, parks, police, and administrative staff.

    This was a giant reorganization done without any input from the public. I wonder if there was any discussion about eliminating pay and benefits for city council and the mayor? In 2019 members of the Moab City Council were making $9,703.22; today they are making $30,814, including benefits. The mayor was making $15,378.29; today she is making $37,410, including benefits. While I worry about anyone not having health insurance these days, it certainly didn’t phase decision-makers at the city to strip longtime employees of health insurance and/or jobs during a pandemic. At the very heart of this reorganization issue is how people are treated. And in this case, the city failed miserably in respecting its loyal employees.

    The dismissal of Terry Lewis and reclassification of the aquatic center is how many of us came to find out about the reorganization. The pool and other facilities at the MRAC were fought hard for and have been professionally run and cared for by Terry and her managers. The pool and gym aren’t just “fluff.”

    The facility is often used in concert with physician-ordered physical therapy. It gives our kids a place to play, laugh and exercise. It gives older people a place to stay strong and social. Should part-time/non-benefited employees or former lifeguards be charged with managing such an important community resource, especially during a pandemic? What will this do to the city’s liability and insurance rates?

    Will you feel comfortable letting your child recreate there? I guess we’ll all have to wait and see what happens, but at least some of us aren’t going to gamble that it will remain the safe environment it’s been for 10 years. Join me in asking questions and demanding transparency of your government.

    Remember, they work for you.

    — Janet Buckingham
    Moab

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