City Council reconsiders Tech Center fees
Lockhart’s Technology Center returned to the center of controversy on Tuesday evening.
During the Lockhart City Council’s Tuesday evening work session, Training Director Michele Schalin asked the council for clarification on a resolution they passed last month, declaring that all Technology Center services would be offered free of charge. Schalin expresse
d concern that the free classes included not only job-skills training, but also hobby software classes.
Councilmember Jimmy Bertram suggested that services should be available free to any individual who holds a library card. Library cards are free to Lockhart residents, and available for a small cost to residents of Caldwell County.
The council agreed that job-skills training should be free of charge. The debate focused on the hobby training, and what that training entails.
“I want the public to be notified of the services that are available for free,” Councilmember Dick Weiland said. “The last time we discussed this, I thought I threw the gauntlet to the Tech Center staff. I requested that they identify what would be available for free.”
Bertram then suggested that training courses that involve more than “basic skills” be eliminated from the Technology Center curriculum for a period of six months, so the council can evaluate the costs, benefits and usefulness of free training.
In the end, mayor Ray Sanders appointed a committee of citizens and council members to evaluate the center. The mayor charged the committee with the task of evaluating the costs involved with providing training for both basic skills and hobby software programs at the end of the six-month evaluation period.
As a stop-gap measure, the council agreed to allow Schalin to continue to provide “hobby” training at a fee, while providing “skills” training free of charge. Until clear definitions can be drawn, the Microsoft Office Suite will be considered “skills” software.
At the request of Councilmember Paul Gomez, the council entertained the idea of amending the 2004-2005 Fiscal Year Budget to include an additional half-percent pay raise for all city employees, in addition to the 2 percent raise they already received.
The money to fund the pay increase was to be taken from the Public Works Department, and specifically the funds that the council earmarked for road repairs. According to Bertram, the estimated need for street repair is in excess of $30 million. The total funds allowed for these repairs in the budget was $287,000. The cost for the additional pay raise would be less than $30,000.
“We’ve been told that the city has trouble keeping employees because of the pay,” Gomez said. “We can’t keep employees by putting money into the streets where it won’t make that much difference.”
“We weren’t able to be as generous as we all wanted to be,” Bertram said. “But we have given the employees another holiday, and we’ve changed the longevity pay scale this year.”
The council had agreed, earlier in the meeting, to grant Good Friday as an employee holiday, and to increase longevity pay to $10 per month of service.
In a 5-2 vote, the council voted against the additional pay raise, but committed to look at payroll issues with the hope of offering another pay increase next fiscal year.
In other business:
The council voted authorized the City Manager to award a contract for cleaning services to Heads Up Cleaning Specialists in the amount of nearly $30,000.
They approved an application for a grant in the amount of $20,000 from the Lower Colorado River Authority for use in the Maple Street Sports Complex. The grant proposal includes a requirement for the use of matching funds and in-kind contributions.
A tract of property at 202 China Street was rezoned from Commercial-Heavy Business to Residential Medium Density.