Plan to give Mayor more supervisory role over staff hits snag
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
An effort was made at Tuesday’s City Council meeting to amend the Employee Handbook to give Mayor Rick Hall supervisory authority over municipal officers.
This move would include the City Administrator, City Secretary, Municipal Court Judge, Court Administrator, Finance Director, Chief of Police, Code Enforcement Officer and City Attorney.
The shift ran into a snag when Council Member Ron Rhea asked for the item to be tabled so City Attorney Dottie Palumbo would have an opportunity to look at it in relation to the ethics ordinance. The Council agreed in a unanimous vote – with Council Member Tony DeYoung absent – to table the issue until June.
Palumbo said there were a number of ordinances that would require amendment to make this change beyond the Employee Handbook, and also said there could be issues with perceived separation of powers in the City.
“Currently, it is set up with the Council doing the legislative, the City doing the administrative and then the judicial is done by the Municipal Court Judge,” Palumbo said. “You may want to consider looking at the Municipal Court Judge separately.”
Rhea wanted clarification of who would manage daily operations with the City.
“Who is going to handle the day-to-day operations?” he asked. “Is that going to be Greg (Boatright, city administrator) or is that going to be the Mayor?”
While it is still unclear what particular supervisory role the Mayor or City Administrator would have under this change, Hall said it was simply a change back to the way it was previously.
“When you go back to the day-to-day, that would be determined at that point,” Hall said.
After the meeting, Hall told The Independent he had discussions with Boatright about the issue.
“Greg and I had a very lengthy conversation about this specific item, and his comment to me was, ‘Is it something I’m doing wrong?’” Hall said. “I said ‘Greg, I’m going to go back to the same conversation we had last year, that if you’re doing your job, you’re doing your job and that’s great.”
Citing his management experience, Hall said he wanted to improve the current situation.
“I told him the reason that I thought this was a good change for the City to build a structure inside the City,” he said. “Greg’s mentioned to me a couple of times, and he’s even said it in Council meetings, that he is not a manager. So with changing this, and the conversation we had today, I want to help – for lack of a better term, teach (Boatright) how to be the manager the city needs him to be. I’ve had 22 years experience with staff management with thousands of employees under me and I’m just trying to create a structure so we have a solid path moving forward.”
Boatright had no comment on the discussion, saying the decision was up to the Council.
“It’s a Council decision, and whatever Council decides,” Boatright said. “Our job as a staff is to carry out the will of the Council, so that’s what we’ll do.”
The item was placed on the agenda by Council members Liz Rundzieher and Steve McIntosh. McIntosh said he did so because it was his understanding that the proposal was the way it was set up before.
“We got elected to make decisions to make the City Council efficient, and if the opinion was it was efficient under the old structure what was the purpose of changing it?” he said. “I asked the question what the structure was and that’s the answer that I got, so I didn’t know, I relied for others to tell me who answered to the Mayor, and it sounds like some of them may not have, so that’s pretty much where we’re at.”
He also cited what he sees as time spent on city business as another factor.
“We have a Mayor who is here more than the City Administrator at work and I think that’s probably the more appropriate way to deal with that.”
Pezold resigns post
Planning and Zoning Commission Chair Chris Pezold resigned from the board during the public comments portion of Tuesday’s meeting, sharing his frustration with the Council regarding accusations against him.
He expected to have an opportunity to address the rumors that led to him being questioned by Hall about alleged unethical activity in connection with city projects, but he was not on the agenda.
He said he was not given an explanation why, and Hall said after the meeting he did not know what the next step would be.
A unanimous vote ended the debate for the time being over the one-way streets plan downtown.
The Council agreed to provide temporary two-way traffic on portions of Barton and Myrtle streets beginning May 31 as a way to provide relief for the traffic back up on RR 1869 west of downtown.
“I just think this is the best possible solution we’re going to find right now,” said Council Member Liz Rundzieher.
Rhea, who has opposed the measure in the past, supported it with the request for more study of the issue.
“We’ve defined the problem, but we haven’t analyzed it,” Rhea said. “We haven’t measured it, and therefore how can we improve it? If we do this the only thing I would request as we move forward is that we would at least do some measurements of it and some analysis so that we can improve it.”
The original changes made Aynsworth, Munro and Myrtle streets one-way south, while Fallwell and Grange streets are one-way north. Barton was one-way north, toward RR 1869, where a divider will allow traffic to go either direction on RR 1869.
The cost of the project, to include signage and necessary street improvements at intersections, was $36,522.50.
Police Department changes
The Liberty Hill Police Department will grow by two additional officers this summer after the Council decided Tuesday to add the positions as part of a development agreement with the Larkspur subdivision.
Larkspur pays a graduated annual amount to the City for police services, and the development has recently surpassed the total number of homes that triggers an increase in its payment to $100,800.
The funds from Larkspur will cover all but about $39,000 of the costs to the City for the two new officers in the upcoming fiscal year.
“I look at the two new officers as an obligation to the Larkspur community because that’s what we have in our development agreement,” Hall said. “I don’t look at that as the additional staffing we talked about last year.”
The development agreement stipulates police protection for the community, but not a number of officers required or specifically assigned to the neighborhood.
Current staffing at the department includes six officers, two sergeants, a lieutenant and the chief. As part of the budget process last summer, Chief Maverick Campbell requested a lieutenant, an investigator and a traffic officer. Those positions were not added at that time, but Hall said these additions did not mean the other positions wouldn’t be considered in the upcoming budget if requested.
“If (Campbell) justifies he needs three more officers, if he justifies he needs one more officer, he’s got to have justification,” Hall said. “I don’t want to look at these two officers and say ‘well, you have two more people so you don’t need any more officers now.’ This is something contractually we had to do to meet our development agreement with the landowner. They are paying $100,000 a year and we need to do our part by providing the officers for that location.”
Campbell said he should be able to have the officers hired by July. The total anticipated expenditures for the two officers’ salaries and benefits, vehicles and equipment is $139,617. For the remainder of the current fiscal year, the cost to the City is projected at $31,398.
Campbell’s employment agreement was renewed by the Council Tuesday, extending it three years with an automatic two-year renewal.
“That’s typical for a lot of contracts,” Hall said. “Right now it is three years with a one-year automatic renewal. It’s more stability showing a total term of five years, but it gives us that option at the end of the three years if we want to change anything in his contract as a City Council we don’t have to wait until the five years, we can do it after the three-year period.”
Campbell’s salary was increased at the May 13 meeting from $111,082 to $125,384 based on a $5,900 merit raise and $8,331 adjustment from the salary study conducted in 2017.
Diversified Planning contract
With four months remaining on the current contract, the Council decided in a 3-1 vote with Rhea in opposition, to not renew the contract with Diversified Planning and Development when it expires.
The company has worked with the City on project and program management since early 2017, on projects to include the shared use path, all parks projects, Stubblefield extension, the roundabout and the acquisition of Loop 332 from the state.
“I would like to get Council’s thoughts on that to see if we are going to renew this contract or not, that way we will be able to make plans for the budget next year,” Hall said as he introduced the item.
Rundzieher said she had conversations with Boatright on how to manage projects with the staff.
“I’ve talked with Greg about this and I feel like we are in a place we can go on our own without the help of a planning and development person,” she said. “Greg said that he thought we were where he could take over now and carry on with this.”
Boatright told The Independent that his response to the question was that he would end up assuming that role if the contract weren’t renewed.
“The way the discussion went was that if (Diversified Planning & Development) was no longer a part of the City as far as overseeing projects, then I would assume that role, and that’s what I’ll do,” Boatright said.
The lengthy city budget process kicks off in June with initial discussions of the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and Parks and Recreation Board budgets for the upcoming year.
Hall said he would begin meeting soon with department heads in the City to begin working through their budget needs and requests.
Taxable values will be certified by July 25 through the Williamson County Appraisal District, telling the City what ad valorem revenues will be. Budget workshops and potential tax rate calculations will be discussed in August.