LOCKPORT – An injury to city Youth and Recreation Director Melissa I. Junke may act as a catalyst for reorganization of her department, aldermen said at Wednesday’s meeting of the Common Council.
Junke slipped and fell recently on an icy, untreated sidewalk in front of her department’s headquarters in Altro Park on Willow Street, said Alderwoman Kathryn J. “Kitty” Fogle, R-3rd Ward.
Alderman Patrick W. Schrader, D-4th Ward, said Junke informed him that she has no feeling in her right hand, arm, leg or foot.
“She may need surgery,” Mayor Michael W. Tucker said, adding that Junke is doing some city administrative work at her home.
Fogle said that she thinks Junke will be off work for a prolonged period and that, in the meantime, some changes in youth operations could be made.
Tucker said the department has one employee who works during the day, primarily answering the phone, and two part-timers who work in the late afternoons for after-school programs.
One other Youth and Recreation employee was laid off at the end of 2013 as part of a round of budget cuts.
“We had discussion under way to reorganize the department,” Council President Anne E. McCaffrey said. “Can we close it down until we have a plan?”
Tucker didn’t think so, but Fogle suggested forwarding any calls the department receives during the day to someone at City Hall.
Schrader said it could be hard for an unannounced visitor to get the attention of the daytime worker at Altro Park. “We need a camera-and-buzzer system,” he suggested.
The Council will discuss the matter at future sessions.
In the meantime, Fogle distributed copies of a letter to her colleagues in which she hinted at dissension behind the scenes as the city deals with a financial crisis.
“We can’t change the past and we shouldn’t waste precious time rehashing who did what and why this or that was done a certain way,” Fogle wrote. “We can only make things better from this point on. I promise to focus on a positive approach to the challenges ahead.”
Fogle also advised her colleagues, “We should weigh all the pros and cons of the person or subject of our discussions, and not let our decision be based on whether we like someone or don’t like them.”
Asked by reporters what decisions had been made based on personal animus, Fogle said she couldn’t think of any, and McCaffrey agreed.
Fogle said, “Behind the scenes we all bicker and call each other things, but we all work it out.”
The State Comptroller’s Office recently issued an audit that was highly critical of the city for bad budgeting based on false assumptions and said City Treasurer Michael E. White had supplied the Council with inaccurate financial data.
Some of those assumptions were on display in the Council’s Finance Committee meeting Wednesday, as Chief Accountant Ruth E. Ohol reported that last year’s total overtime bill was $1,245,262. That was more than $1 million above the amount included in the 2013 budget.
The Council voted Wednesday to hire the Bonadio Group of Amherst for $24,000 as accountants to perform this year’s independent audit. Bonadio outbid Drescher & Malecki by $2,250.