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Council turns thumbs down on employees bonus

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Employees of less than one year would have received a $50 bonus, one- to three-year employees a $75 bonus, three to five years a $100 bonus, five to 10 years a $125 bonus and employees of 10 or more years would have received a $150 bonus.

“In my business, in the past this is how I’ve handled Christmas bonuses,” Craighead told the council Tuesday night, referring to the tiered organization.

Craighead said this was a way to show the city employees that they are appreciated and acknowledged for the work they do. Most council members, however, felt the time was not right to be handing out money.

“I think we’re jumping the gun here because our numbers went up a little bit,” said Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Huddleston.

Concerns from the council members were rooted in the tight budgets they have been working with for the past few years, and felt as they’re moving into a new year and about to prepare a new budget, the timing just wasn’t right to be handing out money.

“I don’t even know if we have it to give,” said Ward 6 Councilor Kathy Warmath. “Do we have it, and are we going to have to raise fees to do it?”

Warmath, Huddleston and Ward 1 Councilor Alex Buhler were worried about the possibility of raising fees next year when the council sits down to work out its new budget.

Buhler and Huddleston felt the council was giving away taxpayer money, and then possibly taking more in the form of fees next year.

“Why would you give out money today and then ask the taxpayer to give money tomorrow?” Huddleston asked.

Buhler, who was a city employee for 20 years, said he understands how hard all of the city employees work, and said he never felt unappreciated.

He said before the council gives money to city employees, it has to think about how that will affect the taxpayers, some of whom don’t have jobs, but may have their fees raised next year.

“As long as they can keep their job, that’s Christmas to them,” Buhler said, referring to many city employees that he’s talked to.

Echoing the same idea, Ward 5 Councilor Haywood Barry said that employees don’t always want more money, and that there are other ways to express appreciation for the work they do.

New Ward 3 Councilor Rob Cesternino threw his hat into the ring in support of the bonuses.

“We can’t forget the City of Lebanon is a business. You have to make an investment on the front end to get a return on the back end,” Cesternino said.

Cesternino said city employees are the foundation of the city’s business and deserve to be rewarded for their hard work. He recommended passing the ordinance on a first reading and looking at the city’s budget numbers and if it didn’t seem viable to issue the bonuses, to reject the ordinance on its second reading.

While Buhler said he was fine with this approach, Warmath and Barry said that by doing that, it appears the council is dangling money in front of employees and then taking it away.

Barry proposed to place a line item in the budget that will account for a Christmas bonus when the council works on next year’s budget. Huddleston said to wait on the decision until they’ve hammered out the new budget. He said it doesn’t have to be a Christmas bonus but for example a “spring bonus.”

When a vote was called for, Cesternino made the motion to pass the ordinance, remarking he was “prepared to hear crickets.” No other councilor gave the motion a second and the ordinance died for the lack thereof.

Earlier in the meeting, council deferred two ordinances authorizing the purchase of a new fire engine and fire fighting equipment until the Jan. 4, 2011 meeting. The city asked for $785,000 in a Tennessee Municipal League loan to cover the total costs, but won’t know if they will receive the loan until Dec. 31.

Lebanon Fire Chief Chris Dowell said he had no problem deferring the ordinances until the new year, especially if the council was to hold a special-called meeting to vote on the second reading of the ordinances as soon as possible after Jan. 4.

Also, an ordinance to approve reimbursement with Teresa McNabb, Garry McNabb and Garry McNabb, Trustee, for installation of a water line and road improvements on Tuckers Gap Road was pulled from the agenda.

Prior to the meeting, Commissioner of Public Works Jeff Baines issued a memorandum detailing construction for street improvements based on funds from the Federal Highway Surface Transportation Program. The federal funds total $619,335.78 with a local contribution of $155,000 which is provided for in the 2010-2011 budget.

Bids are expected to be advertised in February or March 2011 and work is expected to be completed by late spring.

Streets that will be improved include Hickory Ridge Road from Crowell Lane to Blair Lane, Hartmann Drive from Canal Street to Coles Ferry Pike, Leeville Pike, Franklin Road, Holloway Drive, South Maple Street, North Castle Heights Avenue and Castle Heights Avenue.

Tuesday night marked the first meeting for Cesternino who took the oath of office with friends and family in attendance. Also, Ward 4 Councilor Joe Hayes and Warmath took the oaths, returning to their seats for another four-year term.

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

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