June 11, 2002 11:00 pm

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

UNION — Less than two years after Union found itself without a city administrator, it is again in the same position.

But things are covered.

Monday night, resigning City Administrator Bill Searles agreed to serve as interim administrator, working nights and weekends as needed, until a new administrator is hired.

The new administrator, Union Mayor Dave Thomas said, could be hired by the end of the first or second week in July.

Applications are being accepted for the position until the end of June, Thomas explained, and the interview process isn't expected to take long.

"I would hope maybe we could even have somebody by the eighth (of July)," he said, noting that will be the next regular Union City Council meeting. If not by July 8, Thomas said a special council meeting would be set in July to formalize the new hiring.

Even as Union leaders deal with finding a new administrator, they must also deal with a new budget for the 2002-2003 fiscal year.

Work on the city budget is expected to be completed by June 18, Thomas said, with a special city council meeting expected on June 25 to approve the new budget.

The new budget has been hit especially hard by increases in insurance rates and utility rates, Thomas said, to the point that many budgets have been frozen or will see only minor increases to offset the increasing rates.

A primary charge in the next year's budget will also be the probable loss of two members of the Union Police Department.

Two positions, now filled by Officers Dusty Perry and Ronetta Prince, are currently paid for by the federal CopsMore program.

The grant paying Perry's salary and expenses expires June 14, while the grant covering Prince's position is finished in mid-August.

The city's budget isn't expected to be able to pick up the cost of either position, Thomas said.

Without Perry and Prince, the Union Police Department would have one paid officer and its chief and would need to rely more heavily on the reserves.

Reach T.L. Petersen at tpetersen