Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

August 13, 2013

City to consider new manager’s contract

By Jim Young
Chronicle correspondent

CROSSVILLE — The Crossville City Council will meet for its regular August meeting tonight at Crossville City Hall and, while it is a light agenda, the matter of final approval of the new city manager’s compensation package along two items from councilman Pete Souza are up for action.

The council meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the council chambers and will be preceded by the audit committee meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the third floor conference room.

During last week’s work session, Mayor J.H. Graham III reported to the council on negotiations with incoming city manager Jeffery Skidmore. Graham said Skidmore had agreed to accept $95,000 per year with a 5 percent increase after a six-month probation period.

In addition, Graham said he had discussed a possible $600-a-month car allotment because Skidmore is 6-feet 4-inches tall and would be cramped using the current vehicle assigned to the city manager. Souza felt the salary should start at $85,000 and Skidmore should use the current vehicle. After some brief discussion, several ideas were discussed.

Skidmore, who attended the work session, said he felt that, at the current time in his career, the smaller figure was not appropriate and while he would be willing to forgo the six-month raise, if necessary, he pointed out that all but the most recent city manager had received $95,000 or more as a starting salary, with one recieveing $105,000. Bruce Wyatt had accepted $85,000 per year when he started, but he had no previous municipal management experience.

Souza has requested two items on the agenda including “records of city workshops” and “conduct of city business.”

Souza is requesting that all work sessions be both recorded and open to the public. In his agenda item, he said some work session were recorded and others are not. He also states “there was a recent attempt to have a workshop meeting not open to the public.” Souza is requesting council action to approve all work sessions to be recorded and open to the public.

Under existing state law, all meetings of the council, including work sessions, are required to be open to the public except in certain cases when meeting with an attorney involving a current or threatened lawsuit.

The other item relates to what he calls the city’s “less than admirable record of retaining city managers.” Souza goes on to say, “With or without authority, the mayor has increasingly involved himself in negotiations that have not been in the interest of the city.”

According to Souza, that gives the impression that Crossville has a mayoral form of government instead of a council/manager form as the city’s charter authorizes. Souza said he feels the practice “undermines the trust and confidence of the city manager.”

Under Souza’s item, he is seeking that all elected officials’ authorization to conduct city business be rescinded and that, effective immediately, that all city business and negotiations be conducted by the city manager.

The council will take up items related to the downtown project. Under the consent agenda, action is expected on the approval of the inter-local agreement between the city and the county on work to be done on county property along Main Street in front of the courthouse as part of the downtown redevelopment project. Several changes have been negotiated on the work and the county has approved the changes.

Also, the council will take up discussion of how the work on the downtown project will be overseen and inspected. The proposal to be discussed includes that engineer’s EG&G, who designed the project, will oversee a local engineering firm to be on site for the inspections. The council had discussed changing engineering firms, but due to the complicated project and nature of funding, that is not recommended.

The council will also consider the proposed name change for the Big South Fork visitor’s center that is finally under construction near Stone High School.

The council will hear the marketing report, city attorney’s report and the city manager’s report.

During the work session last week, Fire Chief Mike Turner reported progress on the work to station 1 that was shared with the police department. Turner said his staff is doing a lot of the work on the project to save money. According to Turner the work is about 75 percent complete and he expects to have a dedication ceremony sometime in October.

The work session also brought up some discussion of the Lake Tansi situation. Souza continues to express concerns over the Tansi sewer situation and the city’s interest in merging with the South Cumberland Utility District. Souza said he would be working on a white paper on the issue to present to the council and the public in the near future.