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Council meeting has moments of disagreement

June 01, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - A discussion Tuesday over whether a city job should be filled might have been as much about fiscal policy as it was about newly elected officials figuring out how to deal with each other.

The city's director of administrative services position has been vacant since March, when John Budesky resigned from that job to take a position in New Kent County, Va.

Last week, Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh asked that the council discuss the position and its job description. On Tuesday, the council - with two new members and a new mayor - took up the topic.

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City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman defended the position before the council, saying that it played a vital role in oversight and improvement of the parks and recreation department, union negotiations and purchasing.

Zimmerman said that the city has received 85 applications for the position.

The city advertised the position's salary from $51,403 to $74,130. City Human Resources Director Donna Messina said that, with benefits, the final cost to the city of the position could be between $68,500 and $98,800.

Zimmerman said the job was created to play the role of several positions that had been eliminated over the years, and he estimated the cost savings to be about $150,000.

"My recommendation would be that we go ahead and fill the position," Zimmerman told the council.

On Tuesday, Nigh questioned the expense, saying she thought the management position was not needed.

"I just don't understand having to have a management person that has got to oversee (those areas). ... Can't they be directed somewhere else?" Nigh asked, suggesting that some employees be assigned to managers who already exist.

Mayor Richard F. Trump said he believed that since the position had been approved as part of the budget, the City Council should step out of the hiring process.

"It is not the council's responsibilities or duties to run the city" on a day-to-day basis, Trump said. "We can't be second-guessing every people decision."

Trump called on the council to take up their specific concerns with staff members after the meeting and to "move on." But in their closing comments, Nigh and Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer expressed further concern.

Addressing Trump, Nigh said, "I know that this is new, but you must be aware of the fact that when we are dealing with money, that the money belongs to the citizens, I have the right to ask these questions. ... Bruce (Zimmerman) does not control the money end of this (city), and I am very concerned."

When Cromer began speaking about the job, Trump began to ask her to save her comments on the issue until the next meeting.

"With all due respect, mayor, I believe I'm allowed to give my comments," Cromer said. On the job discussion, she said, "I think the city is too top-heavy" with management, and asked the council to eliminate the position.

The discussion likely will be taken up again next week.

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