In an incredible 3- 2 vote on Thursday night the City Council, in a charge led by Councilman Denny Manning and Councilman Jacky Cagle, decided that the city only need a part-time Fire Chief and part-time City Manager.
The discussion as laid out by Vice Mayor Marc Gravitt was that the city needed to find someone to act as point for the numerous engineering projects that we are undertaking. He talked about how, for the sake of some grants, we need a point-of-contact person that can talk the lingo. He said this may be something to consider when looking at the qualifications for the next city manager.
Almost immediately Councilman Manning made his motion “to keep it like it is,” and then a few times during discussion pushed for a vote even though discussion was ongoing. Why is the councilman in such a hurry to squash any idea of even discussing hiring a city manager? Why does he even refuse to allow the council to spend a month putting together a list of desired qualifications?
I understand that there are members of the city council that were frustrated by Andrew Hyatt. He left a bad taste in their mouths. He actually ran the city and didn’t allow the council to steer the ship. I guess Councilman Manning really likes to drive.
The question is why when East Ridge has some of the most important development going on in the history of this city has the council decided to become “hands off?” Why when we need it most are we avoiding hiring a new city manager?
In his speech Thursday night, Councilman Manning stated that Chief Mike Williams was doing some things that have been needed to be done for a long time and was getting the wheels turning again. Yet, he did not explain what those things were. There was also talk about the fire hall construction and not wanting to pull Chief Williams off the job while he was in the middle of that.
Um… He is the Fire Chief. How would finding a new city manager effect his work on building a new fire hall? It shouldn’t. Also, it will take a minimum of three months, but more likely four to six months for the city to find and hire its new manager. Does the wheel of progress that Chief Williams is turning really take that long to “get straightened out?”
These seem more like nonsensical excuses than legitimate reasons to not find and hire a new city manager.
Now I want people to know I have nothing against Chief Williams. I think he’s a fine person. He seems to really care about this city and I believe his record reflects that. He has been with the city a long time and the unanimous vote to appoint him as Deputy City Manager reflected the council’s confidence in Chief Williams. Especially with them knowing at the time Andrew Hyatt was leaving one way or another.
I just feel that this city deserves a full time fire chief and a full time city manager. Our citizens deserve the best. At a time when we are about to experience explosive growth we must have both positions filled. The citizens should not be left to hang out to dry at the expense of backroom politics.
I also know, because I’ve heard it from many people including council members, that there isn’t anything Chief Williams wouldn’t do for this city, including burn himself out. Asking him to keep doing two people’s full-time work for an extra $250 dollars a week is unfair. Yet council members have stated that they intend to make him do an extra person’s job until: “his hair turns grey,” or “he starts crying uncle,” were two comments made from the dais.
So the question is what is the council really trying to tell the people? That we only need a part-time City Manager and we have been paying $100,000 a year salaries for nothing? Or that we only need a part-time Fire Chief? Because if neither of those is the answer then we have a problem. We have two positions that require so much work they demand a $70k a year Fire Chief salary and a $100k a year City Manager salary. Instead of filling a vacant position we are going to pay the Fire Chief $82,000 a year and have him do the job of two people.
Is it possible that Councilman Manning thinks that by having a part time City Manager at the helm he and his like-minded colleagues on council might get a chance to steer the ship for a little while?
The City is facing a $1 million-plus sewer problem, and just was asked by the folks at Exit 1 LLC for another million dollars to help them update Camp Jordan Parkway and restructure the roads to improve traffic flow. This $1 million expenditure not only needs to be done but it has to be done on time, and on budget in order to be completed in time for Bass Pro to open. Without it development on the rest of Jordan Crossing will be impossible, and cost the city potentially a million dollars in lost revenue if it doesn’t happen.
Yet with all this on the horizon a full-time seasoned City Manager isn’t needed?
It’s time for the citizens to “cry uncle” and send a clear message to Council members Manning, Cagle, and Sewell that even though they don’t want to start the process of looking for a new City Manager it is what we elected them to do. Don’t worry Councilman Manning there will still be four to six months before someone is permanently in that seat, so you might get a few chances to drive between now and then.