Thursday's East Ridge City Council meeting was profitable for city employees as council members unanimously voted to dole out $26,800 in holiday bonuses, stretch the take-home car range an extra 10 miles and -- in the last 10 minutes -- award City Manager Tim Gobble a $8,200 raise.
The council also voted to extend Gobble's contract until April 2015 and cover all of his health insurance costs. His salary will be $125,000.
"I think he's the best thing that's happened to East Ridge in a long time," said Councilman Darwin Branam, who made the motion for the change in contract. "I have no knowledge of him being offered jobs anywhere else ... but there's too many places he could go. And I don't want us to lose him."
Gobble -- a former Bradley County sheriff and U.S. Secret Service agent -- admitted he had received "inquiries" from other interested employers but said he had not had any formal job offers.
"I have not been looking for other employment. I am really enjoying my time in East Ridge and what we've been able to accomplish so far," he said. "I am surprised, grateful and honored that they wanted to do this."
Councilman Jim Bethune challenged the timing of the motion, highlighting the fact that Gobble has been in the position only eight months.
"I think the man does a wonderful job. I just have a problem with doing it this fast," he said.
But Bethune ended up voting for the raise, saying, "My pocketbook votes no, but my heart votes yes."
Gobble will not be included in the $200 holiday bonuses for city employees, which will come from a surplus in the payroll line of the budget, Gobble said.
The council also approved the first reading of an ordinance extending the range employees can live outside the city and still drive city-owned cars from 15 miles to 25.
"Why do we pay for them to drive to work, when there's so many other people without jobs?" grilled resident Mimi Lowrey. "That's a big benefit, especially with the price of gas these days."
At least 35 of the 49 city employees who drive take-home cars are police officers, Gobble said. The city pays for employees' gas to travel to and from work.