ETOWAH, Tenn. - City commissioners briefly opened a public discussion this week of a possible raise of up to $7,500 for City Manager Matthew Gravley.
Mayor Burke Garwood noted Gravley's request for a raise based on his performance, but said he would prefer to research the numbers further and to give two absent commissioners, Charles Slack and Ann Abbot, a chance to participate in any decisions on the matter.
"I want to give you credit where credit is due," Garwood told Gravley.
"It is fairly urgent for me," replied Gravley. "It's a matter of paying the bills."
Gravley, who took office in December, said he gave up an annual salary of $90,000 to become Etowah's city manager. He originally asked for $65,000 plus benefits, but accepted about $5,000 less, he said.
When he took office, his first task was wrestling with the city's then-deficit of $140,000, a shortfall that has been reduced to about $19,000.
As for Etowah's ability to pay him more money, Gravley said the city is stronger financially than it was a year ago.
In other business, the city has launched a stormwater canal cleanup project and is moving closer to opening its long-planned wellness center.
Gravley told the commission that the first phase of cleaning out the city's 100-year-old canals has been completed, with the recent removal of heavy brush and small trees. The series of stone and concrete channels originally were built by L&N Railroad and carry Etowah's storm water into Conasauga Creek.
"I doubt some of the canal walls have seen light of day in the last decade," Gravley said.
Next on the canal project agenda, said Gravley, is the removal of large trees from between the canal banks. Afterward, accumulated silt will be dredged from the old channels to further reduce flooding potential, according to Gravley.
The city manager also said Etowah's wellness center is close to opening, praising volunteers who have completed "about 98 percent" of the interior painting.
Fine-tuning the heating and air conditioning system and laying the floor are the next big items for the center, Gravley said. Exercise equipment and a climbing wall can be installed as soon as those jobs are finished.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at email@example.com.