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Buchanan City Commission accepts treasurer’s resignation

BUCHANAN — Buchanan City Commissioners formally accepted the resignation of City Treasurer Traci McGrath Monday night, but city officials remain tight lipped as to why she left just weeks after being hired.

People first learned that McGrath had left city employment in late August when city commissioners voted to remove her name on city financial accounts. Commissioners appointed bookkeeper Stephanie Powers as the interim treasurer at the same time.

Neither McGrath nor city officials have commented publicly on the reasons for her departure since then. Residents have questioned her leaving including whether the City Charter required the commission to formally accept her resignation since they had voted to hire her.

When asked earlier this month about whether the commission had to vote to accept her resignation, Mayor Patricia Moore said the commission followed proper procedures when they voted to remove her name from city accounts and to name an interim treasurer at their Aug. 27 meeting.

She added that “the process of the separation was conducted in accordance with the [City] Charter and should not be considered questionable.”

Monday, Moore appeared to reverse that position as she called for a vote to accept McGrath’s resignation per the City Charter. The motion was approved unanimously although Commissioner Cameron Downey unsuccessfully requested to have a closed session on the matter.

Moore told Downey that the city’s legal counsel said that his request did not qualify as a legitimate reason to go into closed session under the Open Meetings Act. Downey said afterwards that he asked for a closed session because he wanted to hear more details about what led to McGrath’s resignation.

City Manager William Marx said Monday that Powers is doing very well in settling into the treasurer duties. He reported that his administrative assistant, Mandi Schanick, is now doing some of the bookkeeping work in addition to her regular duties.

Marx said he has had discussions with the city’s auditors, Plante Moran, and they will provide the city with additional support and guidance as Powers settles in to the treasurer’s job. He noted that Plante Moran officials will soon be starting their annual audit of the city’s books.

Also Monday, the purchase of a 36-inch hydraulic powered auger for a city backhoe proved controversial and commissioners ended up voting to postpone action on its purchase. City officials had recommended buying the auger to help in planting trees around the city in coming months and years.

The city has been in partnership with a new group called the Buchanan Tree Friends to institute a program of planting at least 50 trees a year around the city. Marx reported that the Tree Friends have applied for and received a grant to get 50 trees for planting.

“That’s the good news, the bad news is that we have to dig 50 holes,” he said. “We usually dig the holes for the trees using two guys with shovels, but it’s too much for them to do to do 50. Having the auger to go on the back of the backhoe allows for one person to do it in short order.”

Public Works Director J.T. Adkerson noted that this is not just a one-time event but an annual program.

“This turns a three-man operation into a one-man, five-minute operation,”he said. “We’re looking at planting upward of 65 trees with our tree memorial program and using two to three people to dig all the holes is too much with our work load.”

The purchase was postponed on a 3-2 vote by commissioners. Those voting to postpone were Downey, Sean Denison and Mark Weedon. Moore and Dale Toerne voted no.

Commissioners questioned buying the auger now since the Tree Friends don’t plan to plant the trees until spring. Downey said he was also concerned about buying another piece of equipment when the city’s Department of Public Works building is now so full that the city needs a bigger building.

“So why put more valuable equipment in an already crowded building and let it sit for six months until we use it?” he asked.

Weedon said he is for the auger purchase but doesn’t see the point of spending the money right now when the trees won’t be planted until spring. “This can be added back into our agenda at any time in the future,” he said. “Unless there is some pressing need for the unit this year I don’t see the necessity for the purchase to have it sit over the winter.”

Commissioners voted to allow Halloween activities in the city this year with slight modifications. The annual Trick or Treat hours will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 31 while the annual Trek or Treat event along a section of the McCoy’s Creek Trail will be earlier that day from 12:30 to 3 p.m.

Marx said that Trek or Treat organizers believe that they can do their event safely since participants are continually walking through the trail so there won’t be any congregation of people in one place. Social distancing will be maintained and Trek or Treat costumed volunteers will be given personal protective equipment, he said.

Marx and Police Chief Tim Ganus said participation in the evening Trick or Treat will be voluntary with homeowners, parents and kids choosing whether they will participate. Ganus said police will conduct candy checks in several different spots around the city rather than at the City Center on South Oak so that there won’t be a congregation of people.

Marx reported that new City Manager Heather Grace expects to start next Monday, Sept. 21. A delay in moving into her new home in Buchanan caused her to postpone her start date by a week.

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