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By PAUL SIMS
Starkvilleâ€™s 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 â€śexorbitant.â€ť
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 Griceâ€™s salary: â€śIt is my personal opinion that the salary for this position is too exorbitant.â€ť In the past, city officials have hired department heads with starting salaries in the â€śmid-to-low 30s.â€ť
â€śThese high salaries are going to bankrupt this city,â€ť Perkins said. A city clerk years back worked in the $20,000-range, he said.
â€śWeâ€™re just paying absolutely too much money to these new city employees,â€ť Perkins said.
He also took issue with the countyâ€™s Board of Supervisors, who supported a pay raise for themselves within recent years. â€śIâ€™m glad this is an election year,â€ť he said.
Dumas made the motion to hire all three people.
â€śThe fact weâ€™re comparing salaries in the $20,000 range is a 1980s conversation. Weâ€™re now a city of 24,000 people. we need to act like a city of 24,000 people,â€ť he said after the meeting. â€śWeâ€™re 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.â€ť
In the past two budget cycles, city officials have corrected â€śexisting staff pay to bring them in line with what they should be paid,â€ť Dumas said. â€śThere will be a significant part of this upcoming budget cycle to continue to correct the wrongs of the salary inadequacies.â€ť
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 Starkvilleâ€™s 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.