WARNER ROBINS -- In a scene from Warner Robins City Council past, Councilman Bob Wilbanks and Mayor Chuck Shaheen squabbled Thursday evening about a city employee payroll adjustment.
A couple of topics sparked debate among council members at the regular precouncil meeting, but it was the proposed resolution to implement an already approved 1.5 percent cost of living adjustment for city employees that caught flame.
“It’s all political,” Shaheen said, to which Wilbanks agreed -- though not on his part.
The half-hour argument began because Wilbanks said he wanted to implement a version of the payroll adjustment listed in a study done by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia.
The study, currently in draft form, found city employees to be largely underpaid. It suggested six plans to adequately adjust the city payroll, which will cost the city between about $243,000 and $1.41 million to implement.
Wilbanks proposed City Council approve the most expensive plan because it’s the most competitive, according to Carl Vinson Institute researchers who presented the study Dec. 1.
Shaheen said there’s no way to pay for the study at this point. He said it is a decision to be made during the next budgeting process, which will be in May or June.
“I beat this around for months trying to see how it could work,” Shaheen said.
When asked, Chief Finance Officer Bill Harte said the money is not available at this time to implement the study. Wilbanks insisted the money is available.
“When council asks you to find the money, then that’s what you do,” Wilbanks said to Harte. Shaheen verbally reprimanded Wilbanks for “speaking to my employee like that.”
Harte said, in comparison, the 1.5 percent COLA that was approved in the current budget would cost about $350,000.
Wilbanks said council and departments should be able to locate the additional money needed for the payroll study implementation because the city is not in financial straits.
“If it doesn’t get voted on, it’ll never get voted on,” Wilbanks said after the meeting.
During the disagreement, Shaheen threw around a couple of threats. He told councilmen if they approve the payroll study right now, he will have to lay off employees.
Finally, he said: “Y’all decide, and I’ll have three new councilmen make the right decision,” speaking of the three council members-elect to be sworn in Dec. 29. Wilbanks’ term ends Dec. 31. He didn’t run for re-election.
The resolution for the cost of living adjustment will be voted on at Monday’s regular council meeting. It wasn’t clear whether the payroll study also will be addressed.
Also at Monday’s meeting:
Mayor and council seemed to agree to table a resolution to increase annual liquor license fees. Shaheen said the clerk’s office asked for the increases following voters’ approval of two Sunday alcohol sales referendums in November. The clerk’s office wanted the increases approved ahead of the Jan. 1 billing cycle. Councilman Tom Simms Jr. pointed out that he and two other councilmen would be present for the first reading but not the second.
Councilmen seemed to still be split on an ordinance amendment that would allow a gas station owner who missed a licensing deadline to have amusement machines. Council voted 3-3 on the ordinance during the first reading last week. Council will vote Monday on the second reading. If it is tied, Shaheen will have to cast the deciding vote.