April 2, 2014 10:49:52 AM
Columbus councilmen have consolidated the offices of city planning and federal programs into one department and named city planner Christina Berry to lead it.
With the restructuring comes a new name: the Office of Planning and Community Development. For her increased responsibility, councilmen increased Berry's salary from $48,000 to $54,000.
Berry was the only employee in the office of city planning. The office of federal programs had three employees: former director Travis Jones, part-time assistant George Irby and secretary Loria Porter.
The council accepted Jones' voluntary demotion March 18 after finding that the city had been disqualified from eligibility for a HOME investment grant application because the public hearing advertisement required was not published in the required timeframe. It was the second application in six months that was rejected due to error.
In demoting himself, Jones took an $8,116 pay cut. He was making $42,950 as director of federal programs and now makes $34,834 as project coordinator, the same job he had before he was promoted to director in 2010.
Berry was hired by the city that same year, also as a project coordinator for the same office, before being promoted to city planner in 2011.
Salaries for Irby ($27,788) and Porter ($31,514) were not affected by the restructuring. Combined, the four salaries amounted to $150,252 before the restructuring. Now, they add up to $148,136, a $2,116 decrease.
Berry said in her expanded role she plans to afford the city as many opportunities as possible to improve residents' quality of life.
"I have worked with the current staff on a number of projects and am excited to lead them. To ensure greater grant opportunities, I will first restructure the current approach to grants -- ensuring that each member is a part of the project from conception to submittal," Berry said. "Then I will begin building upon the relationships the city has with state, regional and national entities."
Berry added that she plans to carry over some efforts she's been behind, including revitalization of the Highway 45 corridor and The Island, into her new position.
"Often opportunities are missed because the application window is tight. It takes a great deal of time to apply for a grant," Berry said. "Being aggressive helps. Many of the opportunities we will pursue will be for the planning projects that I am currently working on. Having a dedicated staff and the support of the council will help tremendously in getting these projects funded."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
1. Lowndes Narcotics Unit searching for 10 suspects COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
2. The accidental entrepreneurs STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
3. Two arrested in Motel 6 robbery COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Dak Prescott acquitted of DUI, speeding STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
5. Starkville man arrested for statutory rape COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY