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Proposal for new admin

position draws criticism

 

By James Tilson

Staff writer

Mar. 22, 2018

 

MT. PLEASANT—A plan to create a new position in city government met ome skepticism and criticism at last week’s Mt Pleasant City Council meeting.

Councilman Kevin Stallings presented the plan at the council meeting on Tuesday, March 13.

The plan, Stallings said, is for the city to hire a city administrator to supervise planning and zoning.

Mayor Sandra Bigler said she had hoped the council would delay a decision on the position until the end of the fiscal year, especially now that the city needs to hire a new recorder.

City Recorder Jane Banks submitted her resignation on March 9, saying, “Due to my mother’s worsening health, her immediate needs and the hour commute, I am unable to continue to work for the city.”

Stallings said for 50 years, the city of Mt. Pleasant has had between 2,000 and 3,000 people. During those years, the city has had two departments—the power department and the public works department.

The public works department is responsible for all city property, construction, maintenance and repair. The power department is responsible for all electrical works within the city.

Over the last four years, responsibilities faced by those departments has increased significantly.

Stallings and the council have been thinking for some time on how to better handle those responsibilities and make the city more efficient.

Their plan is to create a new position, which would be responsible for more of the planning and zoning issues. The council’s plan would also create a new department—roads and water—so city personnel could be utilized more efficiently.

Randy Wooten, a concerned citizen, said, “This [plan] is full of holes.” Citing his previous Army service, Wooten asserted that the city should not be thinking of hiring new people but should be figuring out how to get the job done with the people it already has. If new people need to be hired, it should be “boots on the ground” personnel instead of a new supervisor.

Sam Draper, public works director for the city, said that how the plan was explained made him feel “disrespected,” and he was already working on ways to make his department more efficient.

Shane Ward, director of the power department, also spoke in Draper’s defense.

He said the issues plaguing the city revolve around planning and zoning. Ward argued for having the new recorder supervise some of those issues. Meanwhile, Draper can have his foremen cover particular areas.

Bigler interjected: “He’s already doing that.”

Ward finished concerning Draper: “Give him a chance. Having another supervisor is not the answer.”

Stallings answered the criticisms by saying all of the new projects in the city will need oversight. The city has to ensure new projects meet all requirements (using the Aspen Village mobile home park as an example). The new administrator would be over that and “would not be a suit-and-tie person.”

Stallings read the job description the council had drawn up for the new position. The applicant would have at least a bachelor’s degree, 10 years of related experience in construction and planning and zoning, along with people skills to match.

Upon hearing the job description, the audience spontaneously expressed surprise and shock at the description, with one audience member saying they thought that position would merit a salary of $250,000.

In response, Councilman Keith Collier, who works professionally for the city of Draper, said the city planner for Draper only earns $110,000 per year.

Dave Blackham, former mayor of Mt. Pleasant, reminded the council of the rate raises approved by the council last year, saying the city was “still hurting.”

He questioned whether hiring a new supervisor might eliminate another position or whether it would necessitate raising taxes.

He said, “This may be a good idea, but it might make Mt. Pleasant too expensive and force people to live elsewhere. Put the numbers to it (referring to the budget process). Hiring now is short-sighted and irresponsible.”

Officer Nate Taylor of the Mt. Pleasant Police Department spoke out against the council’s plan by saying, “We’re maxed out” at the police department. He described the police department as a “small-town department that takes big city calls” and said it’s a big mistake to allocate resources without considering other departments.

Stallings responded by reminding Taylor and the audience Mt. Pleasant raised police department salaries last year in order to retain the current officers and keep them from taking other jobs.

Stallings added that Mt. Pleasant needed a “supervisory general.” He also said the new position would be paid the same as other supervisory positions within the city, with a yearly salary of about $70,000, with benefits coming to approximately $10,000-$20,000.

Stalling also said the new recorder position would be able to take over the financial director’s responsibilities, which would allow the city to reallocate the monies spent for that position.

Former councilman Jeff McDonald addressed the council and asserted the council’s plan amounted to a change of form of city government. He quoted the Human Resources Manual of the Utah League of Cities and Towns and said when a city decides to add a city manager, it has to get final approval by vote from the citizens.

Monte Bona, Community Development and Renewal Agency executive chairman, clarified what the council wanted to do. He pointed out the council wanted to hire a city administrator, not a city manager, and the city administrator would report directly to the mayor.

Bona agreed with McDonald that adding a city manager (who would report to the city government as a whole and not just the mayor) would be a change in form of government, which this council did not have the authority to do.

However, a city administrator would be appointed by the mayor and presented to the council for approval, just like the city treasurer or police chief.

Diane Blackham, wife of former mayor Blackham, accused the council of a “history of bad behavior,” which had been directed against her husband while he was in office and then against Banks, against Draper and now against Bigler.

Diane said the bad behavior had to end in order for the city government to work better. She ended by saying, “All of these people are here because of this behavior.”

The audience responded by a sustained applause.

Bigler took control of the meeting, asking the council if it had specific figures for the budget items on the agenda. When they said they didn’t, she adjourned the meeting.