The Grand Island City Council is looking at new residency requirements for department heads, but the change could hurt the city's newest hire.
Councilman Chuck Haase brought the amendment forward. Looking at the city code currently, department heads can live up to 12 miles away, but that number is only based on a precedent that's causing confusion. That confusion is pitting the former finance director against the current one.
"It's not about any one individual," said Councilman Chuck Haase, about his proposal. "It could affect the fire chief too."
That may be the case, but right now if residency requirements change there's only one person that would be affected.
"We're looking at one person based on the packet, and I don't doubt that individual doesn't come to Grand Island and work every single day for the citizens of Grand Island," said Councilman Scott Dugan. "I wouldn't want to hold judgment indicating they're not."
That one person is Jaye Monter. Ironically, she holds the same position Haase held 13 years ago -- Finance Director.
"I think the benefits of living in a community are clear absolutely," said Haase. "I think my decisions as a director, I knew they would affect my neighbors," he added.
As the crow flies, Monter lives 10.9 miles outside of city limits, 11.7 miles by road. That means, she's within city code, but only on a technicality from 2001.
"They started at that point to have a two mile baseline, so we wanted to extend that eight more miles to create a 10 mile zoning jurisdiction," said Haase. "The first two miles didn't have any council action that we can locate and the last two miles didn't have any council action we can locate."
As it's been wrongly or rightly interpreted, the city has followed a 12 mile rule for 11 years. If challenged now by Monter, it would be upheld in court, but even if it changes Monter wouldn't need to move.
"That's our rule whether we like it or not," said Bob Sivick, the city attorney. "Anybody that has been approved under that rule as a department head…it would not apply retroactively." There are people who don't like the rule to begin with. "A lot of times when you talk to the citizens, they feel if you want to work for the city; then live in the city," said Joyce Haase, a former councilwoman.
"Our department directors are critical, core leaders and we need them to be available," said Councilman Dugan. "I would support 10 miles and get rid of the jurisdiction."
"I would support no residence outside of Grand Island," reiterated Haase, mentioning that he has no ill feelings towards the current department heads, but wants to get the rules in the books the right way.
When it comes to council votes, it's difficult to know if Haase's amendment would get passed, especially considering there are others leaning the exact opposite way.
"I am not in favor of trying to keep everyone in confinement of city boundaries," said Councilman Nickerson. "I think we're just looking for a lawsuit if we try to change anything," said Gericke, adding he would support ending residency restrictions all together.
The council will be presented a new amendment using the current precedent of 12 miles as a starting point. If it's thrown out and no limits are created, Corey Schmidt the newest Grand Island department head wouldn't need to move from Saint Paul.