Thursday, October 13, 2005

City board conducts interviews for clerk

Staff Writer

The Holly Springs Board of Aldermen and Mayor Andre’ DeBerry began this week to interview prospects for the position of city clerk. The position has been vacant three months since the retirement of city clerk Sandra Young.

DeBerry said 30 applications were received for the position, which is now by appointment with Young the last clerk to run for and be elected to the position.

He said eight of the applicants will be selected to interview with aldermen.

Aldermen could vote on an applicant for the clerk position at the October 18 board meeting, DeBerry said.

Aldermen and the mayor discussed pay rates, job duties and a system to be used for recommendation of raises for city employees following a request by alderman Tim Liddy, who said the matter should be laid down in the next few months.

DeBerry said the salary ranges for positions and criteria for performance should be taken up as separate issues.

Alderman Russell Johnson seemed to ask for objective criteria for measuring employees’ performance to avoid favoritism - what he termed “the human being” - in giving raises or promotions.

“We are trying to take out the human part,” DeBerry said. “A department head comes to me and asks for a three or four percent increase and he then makes a case for (salary) adjustment for a person. That’s human.”

He said there will continue to be participation by department heads in the decisions on raises and a check-off list to make the process more objective could be implemented.

The information would be given to the board to help in decision making and in justifying raises, he said.

Johnson provided an example of a private business that offers a bonus to an individual based on sales performance and the method used to increase teachers’ pay.

DeBerry said teachers’ salaries are based on the level of certification, among other factors.

“Yes,” said Johnson, adding that he does not think a policeman’s starting salary should pay the same as an entry level street department employee.

DeBerry said entry level salaries should be addressed first because entry level puts a “natural cap on salaries.”

“Merit raises are based on recommendations from department heads,” he said.

“If a department head makes a recommendation it is merit pay,” said Johnson. He voiced opposition to merit pay saying measurable factors such as attendance and being on time to work should be considered.

Liddy argued that one person’s opinion, such as a department head’s recommendation, should not be the sole basis for giving a raise.

“That way the buddy system might not come into play,” he said.

“The whole purpose behind my request is I don’t think it fair for an employee who plays by the rules to get the same raise as one who does not,” DeBerry said. “I think all of us are human and we make human mistakes and judgements.”

“(That’s) merit pay,” Johnson insisted.

“At least it gives us a starting point,” DeBerry said.

“We need to look at our salary schedule and performance-based criteria,” Johnson said.

Liddy said it will take months to sort out a salary schedule and system for giving raises.

“That’s why I brought it up now,” he said.

Following that discussion Johnson complained of being “blind sided by the mayor.”

He alleged that some aldermen know things before board meetings that he is not told.

“I’m very serious about these department people,” he continued. “If they come to one of us, they should come to all of us. I’m getting tired of being blind sided. I don’t appreciate it.”

In other business, the board heard department reports:

  • Fall classes have begun at the Information Technology Center which is recruiting interns from Rust College, according to Ken Robinson.
  • The board approved hiring of an entry level employee at the electric department at the request of director Tom Boone.
  • A 12-month, temporary, zoning variance request for an in-home business studio was tabled until zoning ordinances could be scrutinized by the board.
  • The board approved hiring of a structural engineer to work with Rust College in inspecting R.L. Rust dormitory, damaged by fire last year. The college will reimburse the city for the costs.

    Don Hollingsworth recommended the city help with it saying an engineer familiar with international building codes is needed. An inspection of the structure found the building did not have lateral bracing needed for wind and earthquake protection, he said.

  • approved retaining Johnny Daniels for two months to help with water and gas projects extending to Benton County.
  • passed a motion to reaffirm the city’s commitment to the North Memphis Street Development revitalization plan.
  • discussed an airport authority and 911 budget request from Marshall County.
  • interviewed four applicants for a police officer’s post and one for a part-time clerk at the police department.
  • approved a request for 6 firefighters and equipment to travel to Gulf Coast counties damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
  • heard an appeal from Liddy that the city put up radar checks on Craft Street. He said some cars in the northbound lane are traveling up to 55 miles per hour by the time they reach the business strip on Craft.
  • listened to Johnson’s concern that too many high dollar utility bills are going uncollected. He pointed to six delinquent bills over $1,000, two over $800 out of a list of 21 unpaid bills.

    DeBerry suggested the city utility department develop a program where people can apply for assistance with utility bills.

  • went into executive session to discuss personnel and potential litigation.

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