By C.J. Carnacchio
Oxford Village can finally turn off the neon vacancy sign that’s been flashing over its clerk-treasurer’s office for more than a year.
Last week, council voted 5-0 to approve a six-page employment agreement, effective July 1, with Teresa Onica, supervisor of Atlas Township.
“I’m looking forward to working here and I’m happy the board decided to hire me for the position,” she said following the meeting. “Good things are happening in Oxford.”
Onica’s first day on the job will be July 2.
According to the employment agreement, her starting annual salary will be $52,500, plus benefits, including health insurance, retirement, dental and optical coverage, life insurance, funeral leave, holiday pay, vacation time and sick leave.
Onica’s current salary in Atlas is $37,773 per year.
The village is requiring her to become a Michigan Certified Professional Treasurer (MiCPT). As such, the employment agreement calls for her to attend, at the village’s expense, the Michigan Municipal Treasurers Association’s (MMTA) Basic Institute in 2019 and 2020.
The Basic Institute “is designed to enhance the overall job performance of treasurers in both small and large municipalities, and is required for those seeking the MiCPT certification,” according to the MMTA website.
Following her completion of each of the two Basic Institute sessions, Onica’s annual salary will increase by $2,000, for a total of $4,000, according to the agreement. When she receives her certification, her annual salary will increase by another $2,000.
Onica will be an at-will employee serving at the “sole discretion of the village council,” which, per the agreement, will conduct a review of her performance every November.
If she is ever terminated by council, the agreement entitles her to receive a severance payment equal to three months of her base salary. However, she will not receive any severance if she’s terminated due to a criminal conviction, “misdemeanor or otherwise, related in any way to malfeasance in office.”
While working for the village, Onica will continue to serve as supervisor of Atlas Township, an office she’s held since her election in November 2016.
Prior to that, she served as the township’s elected clerk for 16 years beginning in 2000.
“There’s not much that’s gone through the township that I haven’t had exposure to in the last 18 years and that’s pretty valuable experience,” Onica said.
Right now, Onica intends to finish her term, which expires in November 2020.
“I did make a commitment,” she said. “The people voted for me to do the job and I can do the job. I can deliver for them.”
Onica is now the second member of the village administration to hold an elected position elsewhere. Village Manager Joseph Madore, who’s been on the job since December, is also the supervisor of Richfield Township in Genesee County.
Onica went on to say that she “will still be working here (at the Atlas Township Hall). I’ll be here on Fridays.”
This won’t conflict with her duties in Oxford because the village hall is closed on Fridays.
Onica also plans to set aside one evening a week to schedule appointments related to Atlas business.
“I have Wednesdays slated right now,” she said.
Outside of Fridays and Wednesday evenings, Onica noted she will make herself available “as needed” to whoever wants or needs to meet with her in Atlas.
“Not everybody’s schedule is going to dovetail with mine,” she said. “If it has to be a Saturday, then we meet on Saturday.”
“To be honest with you, (since) we’re a bedroom community that’s probably going to be more convenient for most people because they won’t have to take time off work to come and speak with me or call me on their lunch hour,” Onica continued. “They can now select a time that works for them and stop in and have my undivided attention. It could be an even better situation for a number of people.”
Now that she’s got the job in Oxford, Onica is going to evaluate and explore her options with regard to running the Atlas supervisor’s office. Those options include continuing to do the job on her own or potentially hiring someone to help handle the workload and paying this person out of her own pocket.
“It won’t cost my taxpayers anything,” she said.
But nothing will be decided right away.
Onica said she needs time to “get a handle on” her new duties in Oxford and “assess exactly what the need is going to be” in the Atlas Township supervisor’s office.
“It’s almost like an if-and-when-needed type of situation,” she explained. “I don’t want everybody to, after one month, say, ‘Okay, what’s the plan and who are you hiring?’ I might find that after a month, things are working fine for now.”
If she ultimately determines there’s a need to hire someone, it may be only for “certain months,” such as the time of year when the township budget is prepared.
“I might find that some blocks of time are more labor intensive and I need somebody there (because) there’s more activity,” Onica said. “(During) other times, like summertime (when) things are kind of laid back, (there’s) not a whole lot going on. (During those times) having an extra person in the office isn’t going to benefit the township, so why have somebody there when you don’t need them?”
If Onica does end up hiring someone, she wants to make sure that person is both knowledgable and capable.
“There’s a lot to know and if I’m going to pay somebody to come (in) and do my job, I want them to be able to do my job,” she said. “I don’t want somebody that’s just going to come in here and sit at a desk and wait for somebody to come in, take notes, then call me and I still have to do the job because they can’t do it. I don’t want to pay somebody just to sit in a seat.”
“I really need to assess what’s going to work best for everybody,” Onica added.
Due to the nature of her positions, Onica will be required to attend the regularly-scheduled meetings of both the Oxford Village Council and Atlas Township Board, but there is no conflict with regard to the times and dates those occur.
The village council meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, while the township board meets at 5:30 p.m. on the third Monday of each month.
Onica noted she’s received “very positive feedback” from people with regard to her simultaneously serving two municipalities.
“I haven’t had anybody say, ‘Well, you better not do both (jobs),’” she said.
“Everybody that I’ve talked to believes I can do both and wants me to stay (as supervisor),” Onica noted.