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By PAUL SIMS
Starkville‚Äôs Board of Aldermen narrowly approved the hire of three people with salaries above $44,000, a move one official says keeps the city competitive, while another calls it ‚Äúexorbitant.‚ÄĚ
On three 3-2 votes, the board hired Randall Grice as the systems network administrator at $45,396 in the Information Technology Department, Andrew Nagel as the Geographic Information System (GIS) coordinator in the Public Services Department at a salary of $44,211 and Bobby W. Hall as building official at a salary of $54,031.
Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, Ward 3 Alderman Eric Parker and Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas voted in favor of the hirings. Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn voted against them. Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver and Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey were absent.
Perkins said on Grice‚Äôs salary: ‚ÄúIt is my personal opinion that the salary for this position is too exorbitant.‚ÄĚ In the past, city officials have hired department heads with starting salaries in the ‚Äúmid-to-low 30s.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThese high salaries are going to bankrupt this city,‚ÄĚ Perkins said. A city clerk years back worked in the $20,000-range, he said.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre just paying absolutely too much money to these new city employees,‚ÄĚ Perkins said.
He also took issue with the county‚Äôs Board of Supervisors, who supported a pay raise for themselves within recent years. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm glad this is an election year,‚ÄĚ he said.
Dumas made the motion to hire all three people.
‚ÄúThe fact we‚Äôre comparing salaries in the $20,000 range is a 1980s conversation. We‚Äôre now a city of 24,000 people. we need to act like a city of 24,000 people,‚ÄĚ he said after the meeting. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre grossly understaffed. This is just a series of hires all just moving us in the direction of being able to meet the daily needs of the city of Starkville.‚ÄĚ
In the past two budget cycles, city officials have corrected ‚Äúexisting staff pay to bring them in line with what they should be paid,‚ÄĚ Dumas said. ‚ÄúThere will be a significant part of this upcoming budget cycle to continue to correct the wrongs of the salary inadequacies.‚ÄĚ
In other matters, the board:
u Accepted the request for qualifications from Government Consultants Inc. to proceed with developing a capital improvement plan for the city at a cost of $1,500 to proceed with developing the document. The price mainly covers travel expenses and some costs related to printing.
u Agreed to act on a contract with Placemakers LLC to not exceed $80,960 to develop a master plan and form-based code for certain segments of Starkville‚Äôs downtown. Form-based codes will give developers to specific guidelines laid out under the codes. Those supporting the move have said it will streamline the administrative steps related to development.
u Heard Police Chief David Lindley inform the board that longtime Constable Jimmy Shurden passed away Tuesday. His wife, Ruby, works for the Police Department as a staff support technician. He said visitation for Shurden would be 5-8 p.m. Thursday at Welch Funeral Home. The service will be at 10 a.m. Friday at Meadowview Baptist Church.