Council Committee Asks Does Huntington need Motor Pool, Director of Finance & Administratiion or a Public Works Director with Engineering Degree

Updated 5 years ago by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter

Huntington City Council's Charter Review Committee met Thursday afternoon with Mark Bates, Scott Caserta, Sandra Clemons, David Ball and Rebecca Thacker present from council. Mayor Steve Williams, the assistant city attorney and the city clerk surrounded the semi-circle. Two reporters sat on the first row.

Mayor Steve Williams, enjoying an opinion expressing slot in the semi-circle, advanced an idea previously considered --- Does Huntington need a position titled "Director of Administration and Finance?" Councilman David Ball had previously researched pay grades and pay scales of about 30 cities near Huntington. None had the position. Instead, they titled the position with those duties, "city manager."

Williams recalled that when the city charter was penned 30 years ago a tension existed as the city began transitioning from a city manager/weak mayor style government to a strong mayor form. "It was used in 1985 in walking away from the council/manager form of government," the Mayor explained.

Essentially, the charter writer's feared the title "city manager" would convey too much power. They created the Director of Administration & Finance to avoid the other two words. The writers of the charter wanted to implicitly convey the Mayor supervises the D of A & F, not vice versa.

Noting that there's not a D of A & F in the Mountain State, in the interest of simplicity, the Mayor inquired, "Can we just change the title?"

Council vice chairman Caserta referred to it as a "simple fix." Chairman Mark Bates asked that a draft recommendation be prepared for consideration by the full council.

The item will be presented as an ordinance, but likely will also be placed on the November ballot.

The director of finance and administration title change accompanies two additional proposals designed to align "antiquated" aspects of the city charter for submission to voters in November 2014.

Although Huntington has a Public Works Director with a civil engineering degree, the Wolfe administration had difficulty locating a qualified employee with the degree. Pointing to prior city engineering employees who certified deficient roads in subdivisions, Mayor Williams proposed that the civil engineering degree be eliminated from the job requirement, stressing that engineering expertise could be contracted as needed. The main duties of the Public Works director --- managing people, running a business, scheduling, and maintaining a union work force --- do not require engineering expertise.

Voters in 2012 narrowly kept the requirement, but he theorized that candidates were too concerned with their own campaigns and that meant "no effort to promote the items on the [city charter] agenda."

As for the motor pool which intertwines with a central garage, councilman David Ball alluded before meeting to the GPS and tracking data utilized by the Huntington Police Department. The technology allows, for instance, data detailing speed, location, and time.

Mayor Williams added, "in 1985 they did not have satellite foresight" , and, for that matter, he opined that in 30 years tracking technology will extend beyond GPS and cell phone towers.

Left unsaid, the 1985 charter writers also wanted to maintain compliance with the city's residency requirement so that city owned vehicles were not driven by employees to locations where they were not on official city business.

Council woman Thacker agreed that the two items would  have been removed from charter requirements in the 2012 election , if the voters had been "properly educated."

Council chairman Bates suggested that the administration and council work together to determine appropriate language for maintaining fleet management

Considering the deterioration of the current central garage, Williams asked whether "central garage" should remain part of the charter. "We might want something not as centralized," he said.

"Do we leave council and the administration flexibility to [make the policy decision] with the most efficiency."

The committee agreed that the mayor would work with the city attorney to bring forward two recommendations --- one updating the "motor pool" definition (and its retention in the charter) and similarly complete a provision eliminating the central location for a  garage.

The charter review board meets Monday, July 21, at 5 p.m. to review the recommendations and determine if they can be placed on the agenda for the next full council meeting. Agenda items are due Wednesday, July 23.






Comments powered by Disqus