Brevard City Council began making plans for the next fiscal year and beyond during its strategic planning retreat Wednesday, including possible staff additions and hiring a full-time administrator for the new Mary C. Jenkins Community Center.
The retreat was held at the county library, where council members heard several presentations and discussions from city departments during the all-day meeting in advance of budget workshops and hearings scheduled for later this year.
Recurring issues before city leaders were the growth of Brevard and the need to plan, along with staff services for more local residents as the community continues to expand.
Interim City Manager Steve Harrell presented council with a memo of understanding for approval between the council and the Board of Directors of the Mary C. Jenkins Community Center to hire a community center director to oversee operations of the center before construction is completed in September.
The new hire would be under the city manager’s supervision but work with the center’s Board of Directors to plan and supervise diverse programs at the Carver Street location.
The person selected would additionally be in charge of facility rentals and events at the Depot Railroad Avenue Park and the French Broad Community Center close to Brevard College.
“We’ve been working very closely with the board of directors and plan to send the job description to them to see if they have any comments for final approval at our next city council meeting,” said Brevard Mayor Maureen Copelof.
Harrell also briefed council members on a proposal for the city to hire its first public information and IT specialist to manage the city’s webpage and official social networks, as well as serve as the municipal point-person for public relations and marketing.
“Those duties in one position are typically common for cities of our size across the state of North Carolina,” Harrell said. “In particular, the reach out to the public would be really useful in regard to keeping people advised as to the status of projects and why certain stances have been undertaken by the city.”
Expansion of Public Safety and
Public Works Staff
While council considered the possibilities of the new positions, members were also presented with requests from the police, fire and public works departments to expand their employee rosters as part of ongoing budget discussions.
Brevard Fire Chief Robert Cooper asked council to not only consider raising the pay of probationary firefighters from $8.71 an hour to $15 an hour over the next few years, but he also wants to expand his staff from just his full-time position with several part-time employees to include three full-time positions rotating on 24-hour shifts.
“We run more total call volume than any other fire department in the county and that is without primary medical first response,” Cooper said. “Three departments in the county have more full-time staff than we do. This would allow us improved night responses and cut down our overall response times. My initial thought was to put in for two per shift and hope for one, but I understand the constraints everyone is under right now. This is something I have wanted to put in the budget for the past several years, but was always told ‘no new personnel.’ This really should have been done years ago.”
Brevard Police Chief Thomas Jordan also hopes to expand his staff, but is requesting a reorganization that would downgrade the deputy chief position to the rank of captain and add an administrative captain tasked with code enforcement duties previously handled by animal control and planning board zoning enforcement.
“What we’re seeking to do is add two positions, one is a code enforcement officer and one is a police captain, to address our reorganization efforts,” Jordan said. “That’s the big ask in terms of our resources, but one that I believe that is worth its weight in gold considering the issues and challenges we will be facing now and in the future.”
The Brevard Public Works Department also wants four new staff positions: one new position would be added to the building and grounds division, another to water distribution and two positions to the sanitation staff.
“Overall, we’ve been able to accomplish our tasks meeting the needs of the city, but sometimes things do get delayed due to staffing issues,” said Public Works Director David Lutz, adding that he has never asked for an increase in staffing before. “Members of the public have been understanding because no one could project the growth of our recycling programs or even adding a second truck to meet an expanded schedule.”
Where To Put
More City Staff?
The prospect of expanding the number of full-time city employees raises the question of where all the additional positions would physically work.
While these requested additional positions will be reviewed later this year for consideration as part of the annual budget process, Copelof suggested there could already be a solution to headquarter a larger-sized city staff in the future.
“I would like to approach the county about the city possibly using part of the courthouse if they make a decision about what they plan to do about court functions,” Copelof said. “I am just throwing out ideas, but I think the discussion about future collaborations with the county working together on a long-term plan for the courthouse might be one that is worthwhile.”
Mayor Pro Tempore Gary Daniel agreed.
“I think we have mentioned this to the county representatives and they didn’t say ‘no,’” Daniel said. “I think it is important for the courthouse to maintain its governmental role.”
Councilman Aaron Baker was more cautious about this proposal.
“I think it’s important the county knows we would talk to them about it,” he said. “Obviously that’s their ultimate decision, but in terms of where that falls on our priorities I am not sure I would even place it anywhere right now. It’s an intriguing idea, but we should at least let them know we would talk to them about it if needed or necessary.”
Brevard City Council will review the staffing proposals and other requests during budget workshops on April 18 and May 2 in city council chambers on West Main Street.
A public hearing on the proposed 2022-23 budget is scheduled during the May 16 regular council meeting starting at 5:30 p.m. at Brevard City Hall.
A third budget workshop, if needed, is scheduled for Monday, June 6, and final adoption of the city budget is anticipated during the June 20th meetings.
All of these meetings are expected to be live-streamed on the city’s official Facebook page.
Jonathan Rich may be reached at (828) 883-8156 or at jrich@transylvania times.com.
Sorry, there are no recent results for popular commented articles.