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City can’t change job classification, for now

By Beth Alston

AMERICUS — The Americus Mayor and City Council held its monthly meeting Thursday, and one item failed to meet with success.
A couple of months ago, Council member Nelson Brown had brought up the possibility of amending the newly amended Personnel Ordinance adopted earlier this year to give all employees a cost of living raise, as well as reclassifying all employees, and bringing public safety jobs up to competitive scale. Brown seeks to reclassify one position: that of the city finance director, Diadra Powell, to be classified the same as the fire chief and police chief. This request was discussed at the December work session and city human resources director Dee Jones reached out to the firm that undertook a study earlier this year to reclassify all positions with the city. The results and recommendations from the study were adopted but city council and the ordinance was amended unanimously.
Russell Campbell, senior vice president of Management Advisory Group based in Fairfax, Va., which undertook compensation and classification study at a cost of $27,950 to the city taxpayers, responded to Jones concerning the matter of placing the finance director position into the same pay grade with the police chief and fire chief: “First, the pay grades of current classifications reflect the duties and responsibilities, and qualifications required of the individual positions. In order to maintain the integrity of the compensation and classification plan and structure, positions should only be reclassified if there is a change to the duties and responsibilities, and/or qualifications such as education or experience.
“ … the city is well within its rights to determine the internal value of a particular position classification based on criteria it deems appropriate. However, the city should tread lightly with making such determinations without prudent and justifiable rationale for risk of allegations of favoritism from other employees within the city, which could erode the credibility of the recently completed compensation and classification study in the eyes of some.”
City attorney Jimmy Skipper was also asked to write the amendment and it was brought before mayor and council Thursday night for its first reading.
Council member Charles Christmas said, “According to the money we spent on the comprehensive study based on qualifications, we’re going down a rocky road [amending the ordinance] … We’re already $480,000 short for the first month of the budget. … We should stick with the findings of the study, and not open a can worms.”
Council member Lou Chase said she agrees with Christmas, and quoted from Campbell’s letter to Jones again.
Council member Brown made the motion to waive the second reading of the amendment and vote that night. Council member Juanita Wilson seconded the motion, and the vote was 4-2 with Brown, Wilson, Kelvin Pless and Daryl Dowdell voting for, and Chase and Christmas voting against. The motion failed because a vote to waive the second reading of an ordinance requires a unanimous vote. The matter will be considered again at the February meeting.
A lengthy presentation by Trey Monroe of Stifel Investment Services, precluded the agenda items at Thursday’s meeting.
The city is considering refinancing existing bonds and floating new bonds to undertake approximately $13 to 13.5 million in capital improvements. Monroe outlined two options for the mayor and council to consider. One is to refinance the 2010 utility revenue bond, which is at 4 percent interest with an annual debt service of $1.9 million. The new rate would be between 2 and 3.4 percent, according to Monroe, while adding the $13 to $13.5 million, for improvements across all three city utilities. This option would generate enough revenue, Monroe said, to pay off the 2013 GEFA bonds and keep the debt service unchanged. “This option would not result in raising users’ [customers’] bills, and gives flexibility for longer term, and financing for new improvements,” he said. “It makes sense to finance over a 15- to 20-year period of time,” being that the capital improvements generally last for 40 to 50 years.
The second option, as outlined by Monroe, is to finance for about 20 years, which would lower the debt service to about $1.5 million annually. “The city’s utilities are in very good shape,” he said. “And you have the capacity to do this if you choose to move forward. There is a matter of timing being that interest rates are low and your public works director is ready to start.” The interest rate for this option would be 3.4 percent over 20 years.
When asked by Mayor Barry Blount about a timeline, Monroe said 30 to 45 days to get everything ready for the bond issue. He said the city now has an A Plus rating with Standard & Poor and will be up for review in the next few weeks.
Council member Christmas suggested Monroe get the process started, which was echoed by Chase. Wilson commented that she doesn’t want to move ahead to get the $13 million without knowing what it will be used for. Blount said that public works director Larry Riner has a list of needed improvements and estimates. “It will all cost more three months from now,” Blount said.
Council member Pless said he’s in favor of moving ahead with the revenue bonds, echoed by Dowdell.
No formal vote was taken, but Monroe will move ahead.
In other business, Nathan Poole, a resident of Hosanna Circle in the Easter Morning Subdivision, asked when the city will be repaving the streets in the neighborhood. The mayor told Poole that the council has a list of streets to be paved, and that Poole’s neighborhood will be paved in time, although he could not give an estimate of when.
Council unanimously passed a request to accept a bid from Maximum Heating & Air in the amount of $10,840 for replacing two HVAC units at the Rees Park Economic Development Center.
Shirley Green Reese was on the agenda to again address mayor and council on providing funding for a new organization for youth which will replace the Boys & Girls Club, but she was not in attendance. Reese appeared at last month’s meeting requesting that the city contract with the organization for $15,000 a year. The matter was brought up at this month’s agenda setting of Jan. 17, but failed for lack of a motion.
The mayor and council voted to go into closed session to discuss “personnel and appointments.”