There was a consensus among the Red Bank commissioners at the Tuesday night meeting that salaries of city employees need to be reviewed. It was noted that the city of Chattanooga and most of the surrounding small municipalities are increasing pay to city workers. Chattanooga, East Ridge, Collegedale and Soddy Daisy have all increased salaries and Signal Mountain is working on a plan now, said Interim City Manager John Alexander.
An amendment to the 2021-2022 budget to increase compensation for the city’s 19 part-time firefighters started the discussion about including other departments and jobs.
Commissioner Ruth Jeno suggested doing a pay scale study to include the public works and police departments. “I want to be fair to all our employees and want them to stay,” she said.
“That’s a valid point," said Commissioner Pete Phillips, "but I’m not ready to spend $150,000 this year.” He said that the commissioners need to look at all of the departments and do due diligence in preparation for next year. That way increases can be included in the budget. "I do not have trouble spending the money if we have it," he said.
The city has 45 firefighters, which includes 14 full-time, 19 part-time and 12 volunteers. The commissioners voted unanimously to increase the part-time employees from $11.59 per hour to $13.70 to match the pay for full-time firefighters. It will be retroactive to July 1. Mr. Alexander noted that they do the same jobs. This is a stop-gap measure for the city, said Commissioner Phillips, until a city-wide pay rate study is conducted. This increase for the 19 part-time firefighters will require the amendment of an additional $15,430 to the current fiscal year 2022 operating budget.
At the meeting, a discussion took place regarding the use of public spaces in the city. City Attorney Arnold Stulce said currently there is a verbal policy, but his recommendation is to establish a written policy. He advised that for organized events with a yet to be determined number of people attending, there should be a special use permit required. This would also include a requirement for the host of the event to provide insurance. And part of the permitting process would also be to provide security if the city manager and police chief recommend it.
The discussion by the commissioners centered around what would be fair for Red Bank citizens and what would protect the liability of the city. Some conditions would trigger the need for a special permit. In addition to the number of participants, a permit would be needed if there would be a charge for admission or if it is a money-making event. And events that serve alcohol may need to obtain a special event alcohol permit. Certain activities at the city parks trigger the city’s insurer to require that the event organizer provides their own insurance, said Mayor Hollie Berry.
A citizen who was concerned with a permitting policy said that his interest is in encouraging the public’s use of parks and he worried that some permitting and requiring insurance would restrict get-togethers by neighbors or friends, depending on the definition of “organized event .” There are occasions when a certain number of people are expected and more show up, he said. And the use of parks for birthday parties might exceed the number of people allowed and would initiate the need for insurance.
On the second and final reading, the solid waste operating budget was amended to purchase a new brush truck for the public works department in the amount of $173,004. At a previous meeting, Commissioner Jeno noted that former city manager Tim Thornbury had put money aside for this vehicle, but earlier this year the money had been diverted to buy a truck for curbside recycling. That program was not approved so the money became available again to use for the brush truck.
The time and place of the commission meetings was formally amended to change the name of the building where the meetings will be held, to the new name now known as the police services station. The time of meetings was changed to 6 p.m. and conditions were added that allow for a change to the time and place of commission meetings, if needed.
A vacancy on the Red Bank Board of Zoning Appeals was filled with the appointment of Jared Heuter. His term as one of the directors of the Chattanooga chapter of the American Institute of Architects has recently ended, said Mayor Berry, which makes him a qualified applicant.