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MTAS to Lebanon Council: It would take two

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The rest will be left up to the city manager, who takes over the day-to-day operation of the city. The city manager typically prepares a budget for consideration by the council, hires, terminates and supervises city employees and carries out council policies. Ward 1 Councilor Alex Buhler pointed out to Deem that in Lebanon, the council has always been a “policy making board” but those policies are not always carried out by the mayor or city employees. Buhler read from information provided by Deem that noted a council cannot make informed decisions without adequate and accurate information, noting “that’s the problem we have.” Deem said the city manager would be required by his contract to provide information, and if he or she doesn’t perform their job adequately, the city manager can be fired by a majority vote of the council. “You’ve got accountabilities that are black and white,” Warmath said in regards to the city manager. Deem said most city managers will work for at least three years in a city as long as the salary is competitive with any neighboring cities that also operate with the city manager form of government. What sets the city manager apart from a typical mayor, Deem said, is the professional experience and qualifications that are required. He pointed out a candidate for mayor only has to be a citizen of the city. “A city manager will usually have a Master’s degree in Public Administration and at least 10 to 15 years worth of experience,” Deem said. The mayor’s position becomes more of a ceremonial position, Deem pointed out, adding the role and responsibilities of the mayor will be left up to how the council changes its charter if they decide to move to the city manager form. “If a mayor had a clear vision for this city and was elected by a mandate of the people, he could get a lot of things done if he didn’t have to handle the day-to-day operations,” Deem said. The typical salary for a city manager ranges from $95,000 to $110,000 per year, but Deem said there were some outliers, such as Brentwood’s city manager salary of $160,000 and LaVergne’s salary of $75,000. The council was concerned about the turnover rate of the city manager, who could choose to leave for another city manager position after a short period of time. Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead felt the city managers don’t stay as long as Deem initially suggested. In order for the city to change its form of government, Deem said it would require a two-thirds majority vote to begin the process of changing the city charter and then the council could either put the change up to a referendum or approve the charter changes by another two-thirds vote of the council. Deem said that MTAS would assist the city in simplifying its 75-page charter and would essentially “work for free” to change the charter. He added that the process would take up to two years before the city would be ready to switch forms of government.Later, during the council’s regular scheduled meeting, several councilors expressed displeasure with a number of Year End line item transfers on second reading made by Commissioner of Finance and Revenue Russell Lee. The transfers involved adjustments by auditors to payroll items in one ordinance and non-payroll items in a second for the 2009-2010 fiscal year budget. The adjustments came six months after the city closed its books for that fiscal year. “I’m OK with the payroll, but when I look down through here, there are so many things that aren’t payroll,” Barry said. Buhler said he felt the adjustments should be made earlier and not six months after the fact. Warmath said the adjustments, totaling close to $2 million, showed the city wasn’t budgeting tightly. “Two million dollars of an $18 million budget, that’s 10 percent of our budget,” Warmath pointed out. “You’re swinging a lot of money.” Lee said he could make the adjustments earlier, but waiting until this point in time allows for him to make all of them at once, instead of having some that almost always show up several months after closing the books. The council approved the line item transfers with a vote of 5-1 on both ordinances as Buhler voted against both. The council also approved funding for the Cedar City Trail extension between Hickory Ridge Road and Leeville Pike on first reading by a vote of 5-1 with Buhler voting no. “Wait three or four months, we’ll know more about the budget in April,” Buhler asked, expressing concerns with the city having to spend $110,000 on design before drawing on the $1 million grant it was awarded for the project. Jeff Baines, commissioner of Public Works, said the city must be ready for construction by August 2013, which if they waited until July to begin the design, would make reaching the deadline difficult. If the deadline is not met, the city would lose the grant money. “It’s time to move on with this,” Craighead said, adding that the city would produce the remainder of its $250,000 match through land donations and other in-kind work. Buhler and other councilors noted they were worried about the cost of maintenance for the trail once it is completed, which will bring more costs on the city in the future. William Porter, parks supervisor, said it will cost money to maintain the trail. Also, the council passed two ordinances on first reading that would make way for the transit-oriented Hamilton Springs development, the first of its kind in Middle Tennessee.The first ordinance annexed property into the city of Lebanon off Old Horn Springs Road and the second rezoned 221 acres of land from the Hamilton Springs Planned Unit Development to the Hamilton Springs Specific Plan.The council set another work session at 5 p.m., Tuesday, March 1 prior to its regular meeting to discuss water/sewer budgets and other matters.Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at
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