published Friday, October 12th, 2012

South Pittsburg hires stir squabble


by Ryan Harris
Former South Pittsburg Mayor Mike Killian
Former South Pittsburg Mayor Mike Killian
Photo by Ben Benton /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — When South Pittsburg city commissioners moved recently to hire two part-time public works employees, it led to some hard feelings among city officials.

Records show Commissioner Charles Reynolds motioned to hire the workers even though the topic was not on the meeting's agenda and the money to pay the workers was not specified in this year's budget.

The board voted unanimously to approve the motion, but when City Administrator Bently Thomas questioned privately the validity of the move and the need for the workers, Reynolds got upset.

Reynolds said Thomas's objections changed the way he views the city administrator.

Reynolds said he thought originally that Thomas would be an excellent city administrator, but he doesn't think that anymore.

"You can't sit in an office off and on most of the day and say what [city workers] are doing outside and say what they need and what they don't need," he said. "[Thomas] says we don't need these [part-time] people. How would you know if you're not there? That's my question to anybody who sits in an office."

Reynolds said he and Thomas are "not seeing eye-to-eye" right now.

"I believe in telling a man how I feel, and if I don't, I don't sleep good at night," he said.

Thomas declined to comment on Reynolds' remarks.

This week Mayor Mike Killian, who was not present at the meeting, recommended a compromise that basically voided the board's move, but offered a second opportunity to create a budget amendment to hire the workers by November.

Reynolds said he wanted to "do what's legal" and made a motion to amend the city's budget so it would have a line item for hiring two part-time workers for the public works department.

The motion was approved by a 4-1 vote.

Killian, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said any city department can be overwhelmed with work "from time to time," but that doesn't mean hiring extra help is always necessary.

"We've just got an honest disagreement as far as what to do and how to do it," he said. "I don't think [the public works department] needs more people. I don't think it's in that bad of shape."

Killian estimates hiring the two workers will cost the city about $4,000.

Officials said if the workers are approved, each will work 20 hours per week for 12 weeks, and the soonest they could start would be the day after the board's Nov. 13 meeting. The budget amendment will require three readings.

A special called meeting will be Monday at 5 p.m. CDT for a second reading and vote on the budget amendment, officials said.

"I hope we can get this thing worked out without any further hard feelings toward anybody," Reynolds said. "Right now, I'm not feeling too good about it."

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