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Clarksville City Council Regular Session Recap for December 5th, 2013

 

Clarksville City Council - Ward 10Clarksville, TN – The Clarksville city council met in the usual first of the month regular voting session on Thursday evening. The light agenda resulted in one of the shorter sessions lasting about 35 minutes.

There were a couple of items of note and I have listed another item of interest not connected to the session.

Ordinance 31

Capital Project for Design of New North Precinct Police Station.

The city is receiving a donation of land in the Exit 1 area for its long awaited/needed new fire station. The donation was offered back in the late spring and for some reason has taken about six months for the city to finalize.

With this donation, money borrowed in last year’s budget ($250,000) for the fire station land purchase has been freed for use on a long needed action for a new North Police Precinct. The city had to extend the old precinct lease a year, which ends next August 2014 and it appears the city will have to extend again past that for some unknown period.

The city will lease property from the school system on the Minglewood Elementary campus for the new precinct station. As the city representative to the school system in my first council term, I had approached the previous school director about five years ago about buying a couple of acres on that campus for such a purpose, but was rejected at that time.

The council voted to support the funding transfer in an 11-yes & 1-no voted. I voted yes and the one “no” vote was not against the need of a new station, but its location.

However, during the executive session when I, and others, asked about the details of the lease, it turns the lease agreement has not been written. Our city legal department has not been involved at all. So once again we are preparing to budget/spend money on a project that we have no details on, no lease agreement and NO plan of action by the mayor as to when follow-up funding and construction of the facility will take place when a lease and design is accomplished. If there will be no construction money in the next budget, then why do a lease and lose time and money on unused ground?

I voted “yes” this round to help keep the ball rolling with the school system. We have been assured that the lease will be ready for review within a couple of weeks. I want to know the terms of the lease, duration, cost per year, size of the property being leased, issues that could make the lease null and void, disposal of assets and facilities upon completion or voiding of the lease and alterations that we can perform on the property.

Until that lease is provided for our consideration and reviewed by our city legal department, I will not support the transfer of funding in the required second vote. There is also concern that $250,000 is a bit high for design work. It appears no one knows if it will actually cost that much, but this seems to be the amount we have on hand from what was borrowed last year.

Board Appointments

Just about each month the many boards and commissions that the city either sponsors or is a part of requires the reappointment or new appointment of citizens and/or council members to staff them due to term limitations or resignations. These nominations are to be provided by the mayor in the Executive Session agenda so council members will have time to review the nominations for any questions or concerns they may have.

Increasingly, Mayor McMillan has failed to address this work and provide nominations in a timely manner. When this happens, the council receives the nominations the evening before they must be voted on. This allows little to no time for vetting the candidates. As readers will recall, we have had issues the last couple of years with potential nominees conducting business with the city and sitting on boards or commissions, which violates the city charter.

We have also had mayoral nominees that have publicly contributed to political actions against specific council members. Such actions can also violate city code in the apparent loss of impartiality, integrity and confidence by the public when such individuals are appointed to boards and commission, especially if the targeted council member must go before that person for a decision on an issue.

When the mayor fails to meet the time requirement for submitting nominees, the council must approve a request for consideration by a ¾ approval vote. The ¾ vote requirement affects any issue/topic that does not meet the Executive Session deadline. Last night a council member commented that the continued failure of the mayor to provide nominees in a timely manner was a problem and that she would not support their consideration at this meeting.

Given that I had a question/concern with a potential nominee and had been unable to address the issue with our city legal office with the one business day that we had to investigate, I did not support their consideration either.

In the end, the ¾ vote was not attained (requires 10-yes votes and only 8 were provided) and consideration of the nominees was postponed. I have since been able to contact the city legal office with my concern and have been informed that it may be valid and they will need to research it.

Mayor McMillan lamented that council’s failure to consider the nominees would negatively affect the board/commission in doing its job. Any real or suggested negative implications are not the result of the council not doing its job.

New City Employee Position – Mayor’s Office

This item was not a council agenda item, but one that came before the Finance and Administration Committee last week. You may find it of interest. The mayor requested approval of an additional new employee position in her office (you may recall we could not add even one police or firefighter position due to budget constraints). No costs for the new position were provided for committee review and no one on the committee asked for any. It was approved. The mayor stated the money would come from within her mayoral budget. That is the reason the new employee request would not need full council review and approval.

If you will recall, the mayor touted in last spring’s budget exercise that she was maintaining the five paid/authorized positions that had been there in the previous budgets. However, due to the mayor promoting those in her office with some nice pay raises, there was no one to do the actual administrative work that needed to be done. Thus, within the budget of the mayor’s office, an increase of $25,200 was found.

When the mayor was asked about this, it came to light that a staffing agency worker would be brought in to do the work. Now the mayor has swapped the city employee that she had selected/moved to be her primary admin assistant (with an associated pay raise) back to her former position and moved up the staffing agency worker to do the job. During the committee meeting the mayor referenced the temp worker by name and the need to now make her job a full-time city employee position.

Naturally, I had a couple of questions that I presented to the mayor’s office and Finance Department. Which specific accounts within the mayor’s office budget was the money coming from, what was the full yearly cost of adding this position versus maintain it as a temp position, were city employees going to given a chance to fill the position, and since the previous employee has been sent back to the former position was the pay reduced to reflect that change?

According to the information I have received, the money left in the temp worker account and a transfer from the mayor’s Public Relation’s account ($5536) should cover it for the remainder of this budget year. The full year cost increase from a temp position to full city employee is estimated to go from $25,200 to almost $47,000 a year. The job is to be advertised for any interested city employee to apply for.

My inquiry about this job advertisement and my reference to the mayor’s specific naming of the staffing agency worker with the desired to add a full time city position prompted the mayor to send out an email that only the “most qualified” person would be selected. As for reducing the pay of the city employee to match the former duties (about a $4,000 difference) there had been no action yet, but that was being reviewed.

That’s a wrap. The weather is looking rough so be careful. A decision about the Clarksville Christmas Parade will be made at 10:00am Saturday morning.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of the City of Clarksville or Clarksville Online.


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