Loudon ready to hire manager

After lengthy discussion during the Loudon Utilities Board meeting Monday, a 4-1 vote passed a resolution creating the position of human resource advisor and hiring John Canada.
The resolution creates a pay classification plan for the position that would allow Canada, as a part-time employee, to receive health benefits from LUB. Vice Chairman Don Campbell opposed.
“Look, we can do anything we want to do to get where we want to go, but I’m telling you that the perception outside of this room might be a little heavy since we don’t do it for anybody else,” Campbell said.
The question was raised whether the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service could fill in for duties that would be asked of Canada, but board and city attorney Joe Ford said it would not.
“One of the things I’m interested in knowing from an HR standpoint is are we maintaining our files correctly?” Ford said. “Are we doing the things we’re supposed to do to protect information? I don’t have any idea. I don’t know if that’s anything that’s every really been addressed. It’s something that Lynn (Mills) kind of took care of and I don’t know what he did.
“... I don’t know what we don’t know,” he added. “As a lawyer, that’s really my responsibility to make sure all that stuff is being handled properly and I have no idea if it’s being handled properly. It may be and it may not. I know that (the Family and Medical Leave Act) was never given any consideration, which scared me. When I heard that, that scared me. I thought, ‘Oh no, how are we doing that stuff?’ It might not scare you all, but as attorney for the utilities and the city, it scared me.”
The possibility of moving forward with an offer to Canada without benefits was briefly broached but quickly opposed by board member and city councilman Johnny James.
“If he says no then we’re pushed into a situation where we’ll have to do something,” James said.
Campbell expressed fear that passing the resolution would send the wrong message to other part-time employees, specifically city police officers and firefighters who do not get health insurance benefits as part-time workers.
“Going into it with your eyes open, knowing we’ve got ‘x’ amount of part-time employees that we don’t provide health insurance for, but we’ve got one man, one position — regardless of who it is — but one position that we’re going to let them have health insurance,” Campbell said.
Canada will work on an annual salary of $55,000 per year with about $1,800 is monthly health insurance benefits, bringing the total cost of his employment to $76,600 per year.
City council voted 3-2 to share 25 percent of that cost, totaling nearly $20,000 a year. James, Jeff Harris and Jim Greenway, mayor, voted in favor of the contract while councilmen Lynn Millsaps and Dennis Stewart opposed.
Millsaps cited the pending hire of a new city and utility manager as his reason for voting against sharing the cost, instead calling to hold off on any major personnel decisions until after a manager is hired.
“He’s going to be an at-will employee,” Harris said. “He can be let go at any time if the city manager sees that we don’t need that.”

Manager offer extended

Both the LUB and city voted in favor of offering the position of city and utility manager to Ty Ross, who would come to Loudon from Dalton, Ga.
Ross worked as city administrator in Dalton for nearly seven years before resigning that position in September. He has a law degree from Georgia State University and a Master of Business Administration from Kennesaw State University.
“We interviewed five different prospects that were all excellent,” Greenway, who served on the search committee for the position, said. “I mean we were fortunate. He just floated to the top, more impressive, more dynamic. It seems like he can create a better vision for the future than what the others indicated. That’s simply my opinion.”
While Ross has not worked for a utilities board, Greenway said he had experience working in conjunction with utilities.
“He’s well-rounded, I’ll put it like that,” Greenway said.
In other business, council:
• Voted to reduce the rental fee of the Loudon Municipal Park softball fields to $375 for both the Senior Smoky Mountain Classic and a series of girls softball tournaments.
• Passed an ordinance removing the residency requirement for liquor store ownership in the city of Loudon on a second reading. James abstained from the vote.
• Passed an ordinance raising the city court fee from $35 to $80 effective July 21 on a second reading.
• Passed the first reading of an amendment to the 2016-17 fiscal year budget to provide $1,600 for the part-time employment of Canada as human resources advisor.
• Approved first reading of amendment eight of the Intergovernmental Agreement to continue the Planning and Community Development Department.
• Tabled the first reading of the 2017-18 fiscal year budget as more information is gathered related to PILOT agreements and property values.
• Approved the replacement of a 2016 Ford F150 for the Loudon Police Department through the continuing vehicle replacement program of city vehicles.
• Approved a resolution adopting a public records policy.
• Authorized purchase and installation of playground equipment at both Liberty and Legion parks at the cost of $49,994 and $48,699.75, respectively.
• Approved the donation of playground equipment from Legion Park to the Dunbar Rosenwald School Committee.