Centerville council agrees to salary increases

Telegraph correspondentMarch 18, 2014 

CENTERVILLE -- The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a sweeping change to personnel salaries and how they are given.

The move immediately increases pay for department heads and hourly employees for this fiscal year and the next by a total of $114,774.

Councilman Jonathan Nichols, who brought the increase plan to the council, said increases will be paid for from an excess of funds which were budgeted and set aside to meet expected city personnel insurance increases this year.

The new plan gives department heads a 5 percent increase and creates a new step increase structure for hourly employees. Councilman Ed Tucker said it needed to be clear that percentage increases approved were for both the remainder of this fiscal year and all of the next fiscal year. The raises will not be revisited.

Budgeting for the new fiscal year begins soon, and Nichols said the new plan will not increase this year’s budget or require a new funding draw for next year.

Mayor John Harley praised passage of the plan and the work of Nichols and others who brought it about. He said city workers had not received a cost-of-living increase raise in five years.

“I’m just happy to see it,” he said.

City accountant Carol Harrison said of the $114,733 in play for this and next year, $26,996 will be used this year with department heads getting a total of $6,994 for their 5 percent raises. She said for the coming fiscal year, $87,737 will be needed with $22,418 going to department head increases.

As well as passing the measure unanimously, the council generally applauded the new step increase structure the city will operate under. According to several council members, it puts more responsibility and flexibility in department head’s hands to manage their departments.

Nichols said work toward the new plan began after meetings the first of the year with police and fire chiefs who said there were no specific pay scales or criteria for rewarding employees for experience or education. Other department heads, officials and city workers were pulled into the effort to make the project citywide.

In another matter, the council unanimously approved a measure to give Centerville police officers the opportunity to accept off-duty/extra-duty work as do officers in several other Middle Georgia law enforcement agencies.

The policy from previous years prohibited such work.

Police Chief Sidney Andrews said officers will be trained on what extra duty would be considered acceptable and that each extra duty job must be approved by department supervisors.

Extra-duty work includes such activity as being a security guard and directing traffic at churches and other locations during off-duty hours.

Also Tuesday, the council had a heated discussion regarding fees for the use of the community room at City Hall. Councilman Randall Wright complained that thought there is a fee structure in place for using the room, it was not consistently enforced. He said senior groups, exercise groups and others often use the room for free while others, including city employees, are required to pay.

Wright alluded to upkeep in the room and wear and tear on carpet, which was changed four years ago in the 11-year-old City Hall facility. He said the carpet already is stained and wearing.

Councilman Cameron Andrews agreed that fees should be set and adhered to. Harley took exception to singling out use by seniors and said in years past the city contributed finances to the city senior organization but stopped in lieu of free use of the community room.

As debate continued, council members finally agreed to table the matter.

In other business, Centerville will conduct its biannual clean-up day April 5. Wright said there will be one garbage run in the morning to pick up street items and that roll-off garbage bins will be at the city’s recycling center all day to receive trash. He said virtually all items will be accepted in the bins.

Wright said there will be a hotdog and hamburger cookout at the recycling center, located at 101 Industrial Way off Carl Vinson Parkway. In case of rain, the event will be April 12.

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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