In split vote, Council approves personnel changes at City Hall

By SHELLY WILKISON

Following a two-hour closed session Monday, the Liberty Hill City Council voted to create the position of City Treasurer and appointed the current City Secretary to fill it.

After a 3-2 vote naming Tammy Kirk Treasurer — a lateral move that Mayor Jamie Williamson said does not include a pay increase — the Council voted 3-2 again to promote City Receptionist Karen Smith to City Secretary.

Although the City of Liberty Hill has never had a City Treasurer, Mayor Williamson told the Council that the position was “required by state statute.”

When asked by Council member Connie Fuller, a former Liberty Hill mayor, to cite the statute, Attorney Cathy Riedel said the position was not “required,” however, the Texas Local Government Code does outline the responsibilities of a treasurer if a municipal government chooses to appoint such an officer.

“Historically, we have had an individual in the role — Rachel Austin. She manifested the role of treasurer under a different title,” said Council member Vicki Brewer.

Mrs. Austin resigned her position as Deputy City Secretary shortly after the council elections last May to accept a position as City Secretary for the City of Jonestown. While an employee of the City of Liberty Hill, she was responsible for preparing budget documents and handling all of the city finances.

In her absence,  the City contracted with Teri Moore of Bookkeeping on the Loop to oversee the accounting — paying $35 per hour for her services.

In a 3-2 decision, the Council took one vote to approve a job description for the treasurer position and assigned it to Mrs. Kirk. The job description specifies a salary range of $40,000-$50,000. Council members Wendell McLeod and Sammy Pruett voted no, and Mrs. Brewer and Mrs. Fuller voted yes. Mayor Williamson broke the tie by voting yes. Members voted the same way on the appointment of Mrs. Smith to City Secretary.

Mayor Williamson told The Independent on Tuesday that Mrs. Kirk has been “cross-training” for some time and is now qualified to handle the financial duties of the City. She said Mrs. Kirk had already taken over the task of employee payroll, adding that she was trained by Ms. Moore.

“As she finished with her other (City Secretary) duties, Tammy would sit with Ms. Moore and ask questions during the bookkeeping process. She also participated in a public investment workshop to train her for the duties of Investment Officer,” the Mayor said.

“She (Mrs. Kirk) has also done a phenominal job of educating herself,” said the Mayor. “We’re allowing her to do that and encouraging cross training. I am a big believer in more people knowing (various jobs on staff).”

The Mayor said she did not see the need in posting the treasurer job or the city secretary position, or considering other applicants because Mrs. Kirk and Mrs. Smith were best suited for the jobs. Both personnel changes are effective June 1.

“My opinion after 10 months…is that we would be better served having that financial person here all the time,” Mayor Williamson said. “We will be spending less by doing it this way.”

The Mayor said Mrs. Moore will continue to come in once each week “to make sure the cleanup (of QuickBooks files) stays clean.” She said the bookkeeper “tidied up some things for us.”

In seconding the motion by Mrs. Brewer to approve the treasurer position and the assignment of Mrs. Kirk, Mrs. Fuller said she was supporting the change providing that the Council begin the process of searching for a city manager.

Subsequently, the Council agreed that Mrs. Fuller and Mrs. Brewer should work together with the Attorney to draft a job description for a city manager. The City of Liberty Hill has been without a manager since the resignation of Manuel De La Rosa last April. The daily business of city government has since been overseen by the Mayor.

In other personnel matters, the Council voted 3-1 with McLeod voting no to approve a 5 percent pay increase for Police Chief Randy Williams.

The Council approved amendments to the current budget to compensate for salary increases for the Chief and Mrs. Smith.

Mayor Williamson said funds were depleted in an accounting line item and moved to the police department budget to fund the Chief’s salary change.

The $5,000 needed to fund Mrs. Smith’s promotion to City Secretary  was taken from the bookkeeping line item where the Council originally budgeted $30,000 for Mrs. Moore’s service. The Council dropped the bookkeeping item to $10,000 and allocated the remaining $15,000 to legal services.

With six months remaining in the City’s fiscal year, spending on legal services is at 67 percent of the budgeted $40,500, the Mayor said. The vote Monday increased the budget for legal fees billed to the General Operating Fund to $55,500. The City also pays legal expenses from the Municipal Court budget, water and wastewater funds, and the Economic Development Corp.

Additional budget amendments approved Monday included:

* The transfer of $64,000 from the Tex Pool Street Maintenance Fund to the City’s Street Fund to pay for ongoing street improvements.

* Renaming a City Park line item for a basketball half-court to a park contingency item. Mayor Williamson explained that the funds, which were provided to the City for park improvements by Williamson County,  will still be available for park use, but there is no plan yet to construct the half-court.

Also Monday, the Council unanimously approved the $4,079 purchase of picnic tables and trash cans for City Park as recommended by the Parks & Recreation Board. The purchase will be made using county grant funds.

The Council briefly discussed city needs that could be included in a countywide bond project, but tabled the discussion. A committee of county residents appointed by Williamson County Commissioners is currently meeting to consider  recommending the Commissioners Court call a future bond election for roads and parks.

In other business, the Council voted to:

* Adopt ordinances annexing 11 acres of land along State Highway 29 — the proposed site of Liberty Manor, a senior residential apartment complex.

* Approve a joint election agreement with Williamson County and a contract for election services.

* Create a bank account to receive  funds for Phase 3B Wastewater Capacity Program.

* Approve a resolution amending the Economic Development Corp. Bylaws to allow Board meetings to be called at the request of any three directors.

* Approve a resolution supporting Freedom Season.

Although no action was taken in open meeting, the Council met behind closed doors to discuss with the Attorney the liabilities of Loop 332 and a possible water agreement with Leander.