Shortly after firing John Anderson over the issue of his charges, the East Ridge City Council on Thursday night approved higher pay than first agreed for his successor.
The panel approved raising the monthly pay of Hal North from $7,500 to $10,000 after he said the work load is more than he and his law firm of Chambliss, Bahner and Stophel bargained for.
Attorney North said the city is involved in "a firestorm of lawsuits," including several in Federal Court. His office is involved in trying to get 501(c)(3) status for a soccer association in East Ridge as well as various employment issues.
"It's always something coming up. We've got 65 lawyers in our firm and 64 of them are working on East Ridge," the attorney said.
The new pay level is through the end of June. Attorney North had almost reached the end of his initial 90-day contract period.
Attorney North said he will see then "if the smoke clears and things settle down." He said it is possible that if they do he could revert to a lower level.
He told council members, "If you can find someone to handle all this at this pay level, then by all means hire them. But if there was such a person I would be hiring them first."
Council members Manning and Gravitt said they had heard "no complaints" about attorney North.
In favor were Vice Mayor Jim Bethune and Council members Marc Gravitt and Denny Manning. Councilman Larry Sewell abstained, saying the move was bringing the new attorney up to the level of the former one.
Other members of the council said attorney North was still at a "flat rate," while attorney Anderson billed extra for litigation, causing his total fee to be much higher.
Mayor Brent Lambert could not attend due to a family emergency.
The council also approved the formation of a Charter Study Commission.
Councilman Gravitt said, "There are a lot of problems and a lot of issues with the current charter."
For one, the council is hamstrung in hiring a new city manager because the charter says the person hired has to have a bachelor's degree in public administration. City managers are more likely to have master's degrees in public administration.
There will be 10 members on the commission with the members choosing a chairman.
It is hoped to have the new charter ready for a vote by citizens in May or August of 2014.
The council had a lengthy discussion about no parking signs that went up recently on Haven Hill Drive. Rick Partell said he is a disabled veteran who has trouble getting in and out of his vehicle when parked on his steep driveway. He cited a number of other problems he said the signs have caused.
However, some other residents of the street say they welcome the signs, saying that the street's appearance looks much better and that they no longer have their driveways blocked. One resident cited an instance where a fire truck tried to go up the street and had to turn around.
City officials said that street was not singled out, but other streets have also gotten the no parking signs if a study showed they were warranted.
One resident suggested letting Mr. Parcell park in a handicapped spot on the street, but attorney North said such an exception could not be paid. Another recommended allowing parking on only one side of the street. Councilman Gravitt asked, "Who is going to decide which side of the street gets the parking?"
The council took no action to change the parking situation on Haven Hill Drive.
A meeting will be held April 13 at 9 a.m. at the gymnasium at the Community Center by City Hall to discuss future use of the old McBrien School, which is also near City Hall.
Councilman Gravitt said the city needs to determine the future of the school - whether to put it to use or tear it down - before dealing with costly issues of asbestos removal and the necessity for new sprinkler systems.
The council approved allowing Parks and Recreation Director Stump Martin to go out for bids for equipment to help tend to the ball fields at Camp Jordan. He said it would cost in the $15,000 range.
He said the park has to make do now with a 1993 Cushman vehicle that has to be kept running all day because if it is turned off it won't restart. He said it pulls a piece of iron known as "the red bar." He said the sought-after equipment would be able to perform a variety of field maintenance chores, including digging, which the "red bar" can't do.
Town go-getter Mimi Lowrey is involved in starting a community garden at Camp Jordan and a raised-bed garden and farmer's market at McBrien School.
The garden site at Camp Jordan is over an acre. Volunteers will work specific days and get to keep some of the fruits and vegetables.
Vice Mayor Jim Bethune asked about the theft issue, noting a park four-wheeler had been pilfered. He said, "If they'll steal a four-wheeler, they'll steal fruits and vegetables."
Mr. Martin said another Libertyfest is planned at Camp Jordan. It is hoped for better weather than last year's 107 degrees. This time the entertainment won't start until 4 p.m. There may be a beach volleyball tournament and fun run in the morning. The date is April 27.
He said a planned fishing derby at Camp Jordan will go on despite the Tennessee Aquarium pulling out as sponsor. The local Optimist Club is stepping in. Mr. Martin said he hopes to have both spring and fall fishing events.
Mark Brandt said he has enlisted 1,250 members in a new Facebook page focusing on crime issues in East Ridge. He said there have been two monthly meetings with almost 100 people and three police officers attending the most recent one.