Utica City Council members to serve extra year

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published December 18, 2013


SHELBY TOWNSHIP — The Utica City Council voted unanimously to roll its local elections, which are currently held on odd years, into the elections on even years, which include the gubernatorial and presidential races,  for a cost savings of $3,000-$5,000.

At the last meeting Nov. 12, council members voted to table the matter to think about the idea and allow the public to submit input. Changes to state election law allowed for individual municipalities to choose by the end of the year whether or not they wished to keep elections separate.

While Clerk Beth Ricketts said she received correspondence from county election officials encouraging the city to combine elections for cost savings and efficiency, Mayor Jacqueline Noonan said she received correspondence from two individuals who were against the change.

“They felt that we would get lost in the rush of the even-year elections, be confused with school system elections, be confused with statewide and federal offices being filled, and they were adamantly opposed to it,” Noonan said.

She agreed that they might get lost in the shuffle and added that she was torn between the cost savings and eliminating confusion.

“Having run 14 times for mayor — 15, because I lost once — and once for City Council, I found many, many times that (residents) confused us with school systems and other issues, so I think that is a valid point, but the money issue is very important right now.”

Kenneth Sikora said, by the time he served the extended term, he would have been on the council for 29 years and that, while he was not looking forward to one more year, he felt the money saved was worth it.

Russell Barthelmeh said he felt the elected officials would lose some of their individuality, but that they could not ignore the cost savings.

“I would see (keeping the elections separate) if people in this community got out and wanted to change things, but nobody ran against us (in November), and I have a problem with that,” Barthelmeh said. “I think the city needs more active people involved in city politics. This isn’t going to hurt us, but if nobody wants the job, I guess I’ll stay on for an extra year.”

Since the rest of the members voted yes, Noonan said she would vote yes, as well, for the yearlong extension of terms and combination to one election in even years.

On. Nov. 7, Noonan was elected to a two-year term, and Barthelmeh, Sikora and William Osladil were elected to four-year terms. Noonan will now serve for the next three years, and the council members will serve for the next five years.

The other three council members — Chuck Cuddington, Barbara Montag and Faith Terenzi — were elected to four-year terms in the November 2011 election. Their terms will be extended to 2016, instead of 2015.