City ponders personnel needs after annexation

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Post-annexation personnel needs highlighted Tuesday night’sboard of aldermen meeting, with specific urgency placed on hiringand pay for local police and fire departments.

Mayor Bob Massengill began talks about personnel needspost-annexation zero hour by presenting board members with a memoof needs he believes must be met fairly soon. The board discussedat length the fact that both the fire and police departments needconsideration regarding training of employees.

“Of course we already know we need to hire six firemen, ninepolicemen, an animal control officer, street and solid wastedepartment workers, and an additional building inspector,” saidMassengill. “I believe we need to begin advertising for thesepositions as soon as possible. This is too important for us not todeal with these things soon.”

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Board members mentioned the recent resignation of at least twofirefighters. Massengill pointed out that especially in the policeand fire departments, it will be helpful and important to try tohire men and women who are already trained.

“My feeling is that the need will be for more than sixfirefighters,” he said. “I feel like we’ll be looking for ninefirefighters and nine police officers, and to hire someone withexperience is considerably more money.”

Brookhaven officials have been contacting similarly sized citiesto gain information on their employees’ pay. City officials,though, have not discussed their findings publicly.

“As we get to budget talks, we need to get realistic on some ofthese salaries,” Massengill said.

Police Chief Pap Henderson has said he believes his departmentneeds a wage raise not only in order to recruit quality newofficers, but also to retain the ones he has now.

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell also brought up the fact thatminimum wage is increasing as of July 24.

“We may need to implement a higher wage at this time for many ofthese city workers,” he said.

Massengill agreed.

“We do need to look at wages, and we have a lot to do on thatfront,” he said.

Massengill’s list of personnel issues also addressed the need tolook at costs for training for those needing it, uniforms and forseveral vehicles as the aldermen start to construct the budget fornext year.

The list detailed the need for another building inspector tohelp current Building Inspector Walter Temple, who already has afull plate. There are 13 additional square miles that need to bezoned after the annexation and, as Massengill pointed out, much ofthe annexed area will be developed in the near future.

Maxwell brought up the question of adding a certified cityplanner.

“I’ve surveyed several cities between 10,000 and 18,000 and I’vefound that the ones with city planners are the more progressivecities,” he said. “That would be a good topic for discussion whenwe work on the budget.”

Ward Four Alderwoman Shirley Estes suggested the possibility ofhaving a city planner on retainer.

Massengill also told the board of a need for an additionalanimal control officer to work in the police department withcurrent officer Joe Poole.

In addition, the city will consider hiring up to four new streetdepartment workers, along with acquiring more pickup trucks andother equipment. The solid waste department will also need anotherdriver to join the two approved Tuesday night, as well as a heavyequipment operator and additional equipment as well.

“I feel we need to begin running employment ads even before wenext meet, but certainly won’t do any hiring until you have ampleinput,” Massengill wrote in his memo to the board.

The board agreed to take the list under advisement, and to beginserious talks on adjustments to city departments at the Aug. 7board meeting.