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City Council Meeting – September 30th

 

by Councilman Bill Summers

City of ClarksvilleClarksville, TN – The city council met in its usual last Thursday of the month Executive Session which was followed by a Special Session to consider and vote on a few items. I did not get a copy of the Special Session Agenda to send out to readers beforehand.

During tonight’s meetings a couple of big announcements were made.

Police

For those that were on my council email service during the budget talks in June, you know that the city had applied for a grant to begin funding of 12 new police officer positions. The city had tried this last year also but did not receive a grant. Several on the council, including me, were not very hopeful that we get this grant based on last year. The main problem with Clarksville winning the grant was our crime rate has actually dropped. A great tribute to the officers we have on the street.

Initially, in the new budget (started this past July) the city 100% funded four new officer positions from within its financial resources. As you recall, I sponsored a budget change to fund three additional positions that the council approved. This brought the total direct city funding to seven police positions.

It was announced this evening that the city has received the law enforcement grant to help fund the additional 12 police officers. That will bring the total to 19 new police officer positions that will come on board this fiscal year. Coming into the new fiscal year Clarksville needed 50 new officers to meet suggested law enforcement ratios of officers to population. This puts a major dent in filling that shortfall.

While this is great news it will present a problem for finding police academy slots and training rotations. The department plans for a turnover of about 15 or so officers in the force each year (retirements, those who quit, some who were made to quit) so adding 19 more to the training efforts will be a heavy workload. However, the police chief is very pleased to have to battle that problem.

Blueways

It has also been announced that Clarksville received another grant. The sum of $145,000 has been awarded. As you may recall the city received a donation of 10 acres of land in the West Creek area. It is actually located on the West Fork of the Red River. The city used the land donation as grant match to receive the award. Just as we now have Greenways to walk on we will now have Blueways to float and paddle on. The money will be used to improve the area as a small park and launch point for canoes and kayaks. I have been pushing for a park and similar launch area on the Red River in our ward near the Warfield Blvd bridge crossing near Rudolphtown. It is my understanding that the state has concurred that this could be a good location. I’ll keep you posted if things develop on that.

Special Session

Several items were reviewed and voted on in the special session. However the ordinance relative to returning employees was the real topic. Councilwoman Candy Johnson was absent.

In an 11-yes vote, the first step to providing new rules relative to the bridging of employee service were considered. For the many new readers on my council email service the bridging deals with any former employee that wishes to return to city employment after leaving it. The person may have left for many reasons and is now back wishing to return to the city employ.

Several things have to happen for this to begin. First, there has to a vacant job that the person can apply for. Two, it is not an automatic rehire. If the employee was a poor performer, then they will not get a job back. Three, the former employee will still compete for the job against others that may want it.

As readers will remember I asked for input on this. The majority thought it was a good idea, but thought time limits or an earning period should be part of the process. With questions you provided me, several other council members and I talked in-depth with Human Resources and the city attorney. Based on more research and debate here is the final version that will be offered to a former employee, if they should be rehired:

Credit for previous years worked would be allowed for the determination of vacation day accrual; sick leave accrual, with any unspent/unused sick time left when the employee quit being returned; longevity pay calculations; and if the employee was in the city employee before 2006 the return of retiree medical coverage.

The following items will NOT be covered or an allowance/credit given:

  • Time in-service for purposes of promotion or seniority
  • Time in-service for pay raises

An example would be if a police officer left after three years with the city and then returns three years later to be rehired, then for vacation, sick leave and longevity the officer would receive credit as having three years service with the city. For purposes of promotion, he starts at zero, not three years. This way an officer cannot bump or overtake an officer that stayed in the employ of the city for purposes of promotions or seniority.

I had initially pushed for a 5-year limit on time/benefits to be regained. However, the city attorney thought this would not be defensible if legally challenged for a couple of reasons. Given he has a great track record on legal battles for the city I paid close attention. First, the State of Tennessee uses this same policy without any time limit, which sets a high level example. Second, the time limit is not based on quantifiable data for its implementation. In other words, it is an arbitrary time limit and the legal battle could be why not 3 years or ten years. This made sense and the time limit was dropped.

If approved by one more council vote, this ordinance will affect any employee that already is in the return employ of the city and any future members. The purpose of this effort was to provide some incentive that might enable the city to regain a good employee. The city devotes considerable personnel and financial resources to find, hire, and train employees. If this small leverage in benefits allows the city to regain a good employee then the city continues to reap a return on its personnel investment.

If you have questions please let me know.


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