Today is Friday, December 19, 2014

Council considers flooding, overtime pay at meeting

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“If I’m not mistaken Mr. Buhler, did we not put that one in there?” she asked Ward 1 Councilor Alex Buhler.

The councilors did recall adding several areas to the flood study, one of which was the Barton’s Creek area around Center Street. However, since the area is located within a floodplain, defined by FEMA, there was little the city could do.

“It’s been studied by FEMA,” said Chuck Boyett, city engineer. He explained that since the area is defined s a floodplain, any further study would have been “redundant.”

Boyett also pointed out he rode around with each councilor in their respective wards and said the Center Street area was never brought up. The Center Street area was added to a list of areas to study during a council meeting, but he reiterated that the area is already in a floodplain and there was little an additional study could accomplish.

“It’s just a little frustrating,” Poole said. “I don’t understand why we can’t get the answers we need.”The city recently replaced a sewer line in the area, which Poole thanked the council for approving and said that has kept the sewer from backing up during heavy rains but has not solved the flooding problem.

Ward 5 Councilor Haywood Barry said the only solution to Poole’s problem, since she is located in a floodplain, would be to buy her home and declare that no other homes be built in the area. However, everyone on the council pointed out they do not have the money to take such action.

Poole was also worried about development upstream along Barton’s Creek that she said will cause more flooding to her area. Mayor Philip Craighead said that city officials are making sure requirements are being met with regards to development near the floodplain.

“You’ve heard me say I will not vote on anything in the floodplain,” Buhler said.Also during the meeting, council approved three resolutions to begin the application process for a FEMA/TEMA grant to take care of some work on areas that were detailed in the recent flood study.

As per a previous council decision last year, Boyett had to bring the proposal before the council before the grants could be applied for. The city would receive 75 percent in federal funds, 12.5 percent in state funds and have the remaining 12.5 percent for each area appropriated in the 2011-2012 budget.

The city would be responsible for $39,913 for work in the Richmond Hills Subdivision, $40,019 for Barton’s Creek and the Railroad Crossing and $44,188 for Highway 231 North. The application deadline for these grants is June 30, and the council is set to have its first budget meeting on June 1.

Also during the meeting, council held a discussion regarding Public Safety Coordinator Mike Justice, who was incorrectly classified as an exempt employee 10 years ago, making him unable to draw overtime pay.

An apparent solution was agreed upon between Craighead, Justice and City Attorney Andy Wright to create a new job description for Justice and a pay raise to solve the issue. Justice has taken on more responsibilities in the past nine months in his role as Public Safety coordinator.

Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Huddleston felt that Justice deserved the overtime pay that is owed to him from being incorrectly classified, and the council agreed, but could not agree on how to solve the issue.

An ordinance was on the agenda to authorize giving Justice a pay raise and altering his job description to include his new responsibilities with the Public Safety Department, Fire and Police Departments.

Huddleston did not think now was the proper time to give Justice a pay raise and alter his job description, since those actions are normally taken during the budget process, which has yet to begin.

He suggested “cutting him a check” for the overtime that is owed to Justice and then taking care of the job description and pay increase during the budget process. Wright said they do not know how many hours of overtime Justice worked in the past 10 years because his time sheets do not go over 40 hours due to his exempt status.

“I don’t feel comfortable voting on something that I don’t know anything about,” Buhler said of the ordinance to give Justice a raise.

Lee Ann Crosslin, acting personnel director, said that Justice should have been a non-exempt employee, “and I’ve said that for years.”

Justice also said he’s filed several formal complaints over the years and pointed out this matter was supposed to be on the council agenda’s four times, previously. He said he filed the most recent complaint six months ago and it’s “just now coming to a head.”

“I like my job, I enjoy my job, so I just rode it out,” Justice said. “I never intended for this to come up at budget time.”

Council failed to pass the ordinance by a vote of 2-4 with Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath and Ward 3 Councilor Rob Cesternino voting yes. Council decided to discuss the matter at a later date when they could be given more information, such as the new job description.

Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at phall@wilsonpost.com.

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