Today is Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Council considers, but does not pass, a reduction in force measure

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By CONNIE ESHThe Wilson Post

Lebanon City Council considered on first reading an ordinance calling for a reduction in force of city employees at its regular meeting Tuesday night, then recessed until Monday, July 27, at 5 p.m. to finish discussing the matter.

The ordinance, as proposed, would eliminate 43 jobs. Upon passage on second and final reading, the ordinance requires that employees are to be notified that their positions are immediately abolished.

Potentially, this means those employees could lose their jobs with 24 hours’ notice if city council sets a special-called meeting for July 28 as well, even though the proposed ordinance also says if the mayor chooses to transfer an affected employee, he has to give the council three days’ written notice.

Tuesday night, the council heard pleas from the mayor and department heads to remove some of the jobs from the list, as well as how those people thought the jobs they wanted to save could be funded.

Recreation Director William Porter requested keeping the building and grounds worker and the park attendant in his department, saying he could eliminate all overtime hours and part-time positions to cover the salaries. Council agreed to consider his recommendations.

Jimmy Floyd Family Center Director Tim Hill wanted to keep the administrative secretary and eliminate three part-time positions instead, and wait to repave the parking lot. However, Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath pointed out the paving is “one-time money,” which means the secretarial position would only be partially funded the next year.

Ward 1 Councilor Alex Buhler asked how Hill intended to cover the casual daycare if he eliminated the part-time people who do that work.

Hill said he would have all of his staff rotate in and out of the daycare position Buhler asked if that meant he would have to train those employees, and Hill said no.

Finance Commissioner Russell Lee did not request any changes, saying his list was the same one he had submitted in the beginning.

Public Safety Commissioner Billy Weeks did not request any changes, either, since the only positions in his department on the list are two vacant public safety officers’ positions.

Commissioner of Public Works Jeff Baines asked the council to reinstate four positions of the 25 being eliminated from his departments.

The positions were a stormwater inspector, a plans examiner, a GIS technician and an administrative secretary.

While the council didn’t like his idea to take money from the paving budget to pay for the salaries, the one position councilors seriously questioned was the secretary.

Buhler asked Baines repeatedly if he was sure keeping the secretary would be more valuable to his department than keeping one more building inspector.

Baines said he doesn’t have as many building inspections right now because of the economic slump and could do that job with less staff.

Mayor Philip Craighead asked the council to fund replacing the human resources director and keep the city liaison.

“With 325 employees, the city needs an HR director,” Craighead said. And the liaison is vital to keep new industry and business coming to Lebanon, he added.

When Ward 3 Councilor William Farmer asked if that isn’t part of the job performed by G.C. Hixon, executive director of the Joint Economic and Community Development Board, the mayor said Hixon recruits for the entire county, and Lebanon needs a person working just for the city.

Jo Grafton, representing the Lebanon Senior Citizens Center, also asked council to reinstate $50,000 of the $100,000 cut from the center in the proposed city budget. She said the funding cut could curtail the center’s lunch program for low-income seniors.

Warmath responded that while the senior center and the library are the only two non-profit agencies that are not being completely cut from the budget, the $115,000 planned for the senior center is only a first approximation, and that more money may become available. Warmath also offered to help the center with fund raising efforts.

City Attorney Andy Wright also reported to council that the senior center board and the city are working at disentangling the two entities.

“The board will obtain their own workers’ compensation and liability insurance, but the health care can legally stay with the city,” Wright said. Questions had previously been raised as to whether the senior center, which is a 501(c)3 non-profit agency, should be functioning as if it were a city department.

The first reading of an ordinance to approve the city’s $18 million budget for 2009-2010 was pulled from the agenda. Council still must pass the budget and set the city property tax rate of 37 cents per $100 of assessed value in three readings, and also hold a public hearing. There is no increase in the city’s property tax rate.

The resolution to ban guns in all city parks, nature areas and other public recreation areas was pulled from the agenda prior to the meeting.

The council also passed, on second reading, an ordinance which would allow churches either as a permitted use or as a use on appeal in all zones of the city.

A third ordinance on the agenda to change the sidewalk requirements to require sidewalks in industrial areas only if the business is expanding 50 percent or more, instead of the current 25 percent requirement, also was deferred until the council can meet with the planning commission to discuss revamping all the sidewalk regulations.

A landscape watering program was approved on first reading. It would cap residential sewer bills at $60 inside the city limits, and at $90 outside the city. Water bills would be unchanged and still subject to leak adjustment changes. This ordinance requires three readings.

The council approved on first reading an ordinance that would increase the price of lots in the city cemetery.

Currently, an adult living in the city can purchase a lot for $450, but the new ordinance would increase that rate to $850.

Persons living outside the city currently can purchase a lot for $525, but that price would become $1,000. A lot for a child is now $200, or for an infant, $100. If the ordinance passes, those rates would be $400 and $250, respectively.

Staff Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at cewrites@wilsonpost.com.

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