|Loudon spars over city manager
Jonathan Herrmann news-herald.net
After some back-and-forth Monday night, Loudon City Council voted 3-2 against hiring a full-time city manager, instead keeping the current position as a dual city manager and utilities manager with the Loudon Utilities Board.
Discussion began late in the meeting when Councilman Lynn Millsaps noted that the item to potentially split the position was not added to the meeting’s budget as agreed upon during a council workshop last week.
Loudon Mayor Jim Greenway noted he failed to add the item to the agenda but did open discussion following a brief executive session for a “personnel matter” unrelated to the city manager position.
“I don’t feel like I’ve come up with all the questions that need to be asked,” Greenway said during discussion.
Councilmen Johnny James and Dennis Stewart raised concerns about the cost related to hiring a full-time city manager. The city currently pays $38,296 for its portion of the position of city/utility manager.
The total cost for hiring a full-time city manager at a salary of $85,000 per year with benefits would be $124,400, Stephanie Putkonen, city recorder, said.
“The difference is $92,400,” she said. “That’s the additional amount you would pay over what you did. The first year — the city doesn’t own any vehicles, so there would have to be a vehicle purchase and that’s a guesstimated $32,000 plus insurance.”
Despite the cost, Millsaps made the motion to split the position, seconded by Xouncilman Jeff Harris.
“The previous city manager, before he got sick, with all the expansion and projects going on with the utilities … there’s just not enough time in the day for a city manager/utility manager to appropriate enough time to both decisions to oversee every aspect of what needs to be done,” Millsaps said after the meeting.
“The report we got from John Canada, the very first one, talked about communications between the departments, from management down, the top down,” he added. “Our previous manager didn’t have time to do that. He had to stay on top of everything that absolutely had to be done right then. There’s not enough time to do everything that has to be done. That was one of the problems.”
James raised concerns of an $85,000 salary not being enough to hire a manager and potential unknown costs if staff currently shared by the city and utilities are split in the future. He declined to comment further.
Stewart, James and Greenway all voted against the split.
“I think it’s one of those decisions where there’s good things on both sides,” Stewart said in a follow-up interview Tuesday morning. “At this time I just felt it was too much money for the city to afford. We’ve got roads that need paving and other things I would rather spend that salary on.”
Council approves PILOTs
In a move to put current conflict to rest, council voted 4-1 in favor a 10-year PILOT agreement for Tate & Lyle in which the company would make annual payments of $1.7 million for real and personal property.
Only Millsaps opposed.
“According the property accessor, if they pay their taxes on the property they self reported for this year, 2017, plus the $38 million value that was placed on the real property by the appeals commission, if you add those two together their tax bill would be $2,485,000 I believe,” Millsaps said. “The difference in that, over a 10-year period, is $7,485,000. So that’s tax money that’s going to have to be made up by other citizens in the city and in the county, and when they get their bill they’ll be wanting to know why my tax bill went up. It’s to make up the part of that loss.”
While Stewart did not disagree with Millsaps’ assessment, he felt that it was better to move forward rather than continue litigation with Tate & Lyle.
“I just thought it was time to put it to sleep,” Stewart said. “I think they owe the money, but at this time any money that we’re losing is getting eaten up by lawyers. The only ones making money right now is lawyers and it’s time to put it behind us.”
James agreed, pointing to the cost of fighting Tate & Lyle with no guarantee the city would come out on the winning end.
“It’s going to cost us a million dollars just to fight it,” James said. “If we lost we would still be out that money and we would still lose. Any time you can settle a contract of that magnitude it’s what you have to do.
“It’s just about economics is what it’s about,” he added. “To see how things have gone so far for this point, it’s not gone well for the city of Loudon and Loudon County against Tate & Lyle. ... I know what Mr. Millsaps said, but that’s only on prognostication, not actual figures.”
The city also voted 5-0 in favor of a PILOT agreement for “Project Q,” an unnamed metal fabrication company that would move into a portion of the former Maremont building, 2400 Maremont Parkway, Loudon.
Owners of the metal fabrication company promise to invest an estimated $22,445,000 into the property and create 200 jobs paying an average of $22.70 per hour.
In return, the 10-year PILOT would provide 100 percent personal property tax abatement for the first five years of occupancy, starting January 2019, and a 50 percent abatement for years 6-10 with a personal property tax payment of $42,819.
“On the Project Q, it was 200 jobs and I just think in this day and age you’ve got to offer some incentives,” Stewart said. “I think the city of Loudon needs 200 jobs.”
In other news, council ...
• Passed a second reading on an ordinance for amendments to the 2016-17 fiscal year budget.
• Passed a second reading on an ordinance to designate Fort Hill Street West a one-way street from 5-8 p.m. only.
• Passed a first reading of an ordinance removing a requirement of Loudon residency for liquor store owners.
• Passed a first reading of an ordinance raising the city court fee from $35 to $80. The fee has not been changed since the 1980s.
• Authorized the replacement of three vehicles, two at no cost and one at a cost of $500, through the vehicle replacement program of city vehicles.
• Authorized categorizing a 1992 tractor and loader to be sold as surplus.
• Authorized bids to be requested for a memorial structure in the downtown Loudon Veterans’ Park.
• Authorized engineering services for the Downtown Greenway and Streetscapes Project to extend the greenway behind the Loudon Fire and Police Station to the river edge utilizing the old river bridge.