City handles several personnel matters

Oneonta took several personnel actions and discussed still others in their latest meeting. Councilors voted to promote five police officers to the recently advertised corporal positions. Following the elevations of Steven Adamson, Jimmy Baldwin, Wes Buchanan, Mike Harris, and Keith Roddam, Oneonta police chief James Chapman referred to the five as “the best of the best.”

In their comment period, councilors spoke glowingly of the five as well as the overall police department. Some offered similar praise for various other employees of the city.

Councilman Tim McNair, who co-ordinates between the council and police department, noted that the city is not hiring additional personnel but instead promoting existing employees. Chapman explained that the officers will now have official recognition and pay for work many of them have already been doing.

Invited later on to speak, Chapman revealed a concern over staffing. He explained that the upcoming scheduled three-month National Guard deployment of one of his full-time officers will leave him in an awkward position. He elaborated that federal limitations on his ability to use parttime workers creates a financial and personnel strain on the department.

He said that at times he has had to use regular officers at overtime pay, which may reach an estimated $40 an hour for some rather than use lower paid personnel at around $15 an hour. He asked the council to consider authorizing him to hire another full-time officer.

Councilors appeared sympathetic to Chapman’s request but posed clarifying questions. As discussion continued, Councilman Mark Gargus suggested the council delay action to examine details of the considered additional hiring. He and others pledged their intention to provide full protection for Oneonta residents.

Earlier, Gargus won approval for 19 parttime workers for the summer in the city’s park and recreation department. Councilors named Marie Walden, Becky Kaa, and Caitlin Smith as concession managers and Darein Rhetta as gym attendant. They added Ross Bearden, Kayla Bell, Michael Brooks, Christian Gonzalez, Ethan Hogeland, Logan McDonald, Kaitlin McMurrey, Cory Patterson, Cedric Polk, Annabelle Shores, Antonio Shores, Ashleigh Steadman, Peyton Sweatt, Dustin Thomason, and Mason Walker as concession workers. Lifeguard positions will be filled later.

Public safety director-administrator Brandon Horton recognized employee Keith Mardis on his national certification as an animal control officer. Horton noted Mardis had completed a 40-hour, week-long training in Cullman dealing with how to enforce local ordinances and humanely control nuisance animals.

Horton emphasized that while most might think primarily of dogs, Mardis’s training includes other nuisances such as deer or even buzzards. He elaborated that Mardis had also completed qualifying work to train others in the program.

McNair chided The Blount Countian’s reporter Jim Kilgore over his recent article on Circuit Judge Steven King’s restraining order. That order put a hold on a scheduled county merit board hearing over Oneonta’s dismissed employee Geneva Wall.

In the article, Kilgore had referred to Wall as bookkeeper. McNair objected to that title, contending Wall served the city as chief financial officer. He said he felt the matter needed public attention since the article was on the front page and since part of the city’s dispute lies in Wall’s position.

In the most recent merit board hearing, Wall and her attorney John Saxon had presented another article from The Blount Countian which titled Wall bookkeeper. They held that supported their argument that Wall was a merit employee. The board agreed with Wall that she has merit protections. That decision is on appeal before the local circuit court.

Other matters

In other business, the council approved a memorandum of understanding with the ACE (Alabama Cities of Excellence) program, re-naming city manager Ed Lowe as local coordinator for the program. Two ACE team members had presented their formal first-round evaluation in a pre-council presentation. (See related article)

Members agreed to contract with William Blythe as election custodian for mayor, council, and school board summer elections. The action followed an endorsement by city attorney Alex Smith. Councilors also agreed to schedule a 5:15 p.m. public hearing for March 8 to consider an alcohol sales request from Dollar General.

In action prior to adjournment, councilors voted to recess into executive session. The printed agenda listed “pending legal matters” as the executive session reason. Mayor Ross Norris advised that the council anticipated no formal action other than official adjournment after the executive session.

Remaining councilors Hal Blackwood, Danny Robinson, and Tonya Rogers joined Norris, McNair and Gargus for the Feb. 23 meeting. The council holds its regular sessions the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 5:30 p.m. in city hall.