The Collegedale Commission on Monday night began making decisions about how to carry on without having a permanent city manager. Ted Rogers, who has been in that position since 2006, has made the decision to retire effective March 12. He made the announcement following an intense council meeting on Feb. 15 when two commissioners made motions asking him to resign or be dismissed because of a lack of communication.
The Municipal Technical Advisory Services (MTAS), which provides help and advice to municipalities in Tennessee, has been contacted by Mayor Katie Lamb.
She told the commissioners that MTAS has a pool of people with the needed background and who do not want a permanent city manager's job, who could fill the interim which is expected to be around three months. Discussion took place about using someone coming from the outside who would be able to operate independently and who would not take sides on existing issues. Other board members believed that using an internal person, already familiar with the workings of the city, would be a better choice.
Vice Mayor Tim Johnson made the motion to fill the temporary position with Wayon Hines, the city engineer who has been involved in many projects that are currently underway in Collegedale. After debate, the motion to hire Mr. Hines as the interim city manager passed with Commissioner Phil Garver and Mayor Katie Lamb voting in opposition. Compensation for the added responsibilities will be decided and then paid retroactively.
The commissioners will rely on MTAS to help Collegedale find a qualified permanent city manager through a national search. The process will begin with the commissioners and the city’s department heads determining the qualifications that are needed. MTAS will advertise for the job, review the applications and resumes and do background checks to find those that most closely match what the city is looking for. A short list will be presented to the commissioners who will make a final decision. MTAS makes no recommendations. Mayor Lamb said the process typically takes 110 days.
The mayor presented a suggested retirement package for Mr. Rogers, based on his 15 years of service to Collegedale in an executive position. She said he consistently received high ratings from the commissioners and key managers. Mayor Lamb said he led the city from near bankruptcy to being economically prosperous while it experienced sustained growth. She proposed giving his current salary through Dec. 31, with him continuing to pay his portion of health insurance until Jan. 1, 2022. The plan was approved on a vote of four for and one against. Commissioner Debbie Baker commented that how people are treated is a reflection on the city and the decision on the retirement plan could have an influence on whether people would want to interview for the vacant position. Additionally, Mr. Rogers’ request to keep his old cell phone, laptop and desk chair was approved.
In a reference to his motion at the last commission meeting to ask the city manager to resign, Vice Mayor Johnson said he knows that some people are not happy with him. He said that in 2006 some people felt Mr. Roger was not qualified, but that he stepped up and led the city, and wanted to give him a pat on the back for that. But the vice mayor said he thought a change was needed and change is difficult to get used to.
To end the meeting, Mayor Lamb read a prepared statement on the current status of Collegedale’s government. She said the city has been her home for 49 years and she wants others to see the benefit of living in a city which cares about its citizens. The form of government is five commissioners and a city manager working as a team. She said when she first joined the commission, she experienced teamwork with the members working together and sharing ideas and, although not always in agreement, there was trust that the commissioners, when making decisions, always had the good of the city in mind.
She said that in the last couple of years, she has seen a change in that team and has lost that trust, which has made her experience on the commission unpleasant. She had planned not to run for re-election in November but changed her mind when she felt that the candidates appeared to be tearing the city down rather than building it up.
She said she was taken aback with the proposal to fire the city manager for lack of communication, at the last meeting. She is concerned about the perception of Collegedale for the prospective city manager candidates after they read and hear negative comments and opinions in the news. She hopes that Collegedale can regain trust and be a city that cares for its citizens and employees again.
In regular business, approval was given to refinance existing debt that had originated in 2018 when the city got a $4 million loan to finance street and parking lot improvements to acquire equipment for various departments and to construct and renovate various municipal facilities. Not all the projects have been done and the current interest rate has dropped to 1.95 percent, making it advantageous to refinance the debt, which will save the city over $400,000 in interest.
Three appointments were made for members of the city’s new Board of Building Construction Appeals board. They are Jerry Moody, Todd Leamon and Paul Friesen.