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Community developer interviews back on city agenda

 

Carl Smith

 

Starkville aldermen could set interview dates for its vacant community developer position today, one of the last remaining top-tier vacancies within city government. 

 

Twenty-six people have applied for the position, Personnel Director Randy Boyd confirmed Monday, after aldermen voted last month to expand the search to the national level and extend its time window. 

 

Boyd said the Golden Triangle yielded four applicants, while five others reside within Mississippi. 

 

City Planner Buddy Sanders is believed to be the only internal applicant for the job. Sanders previously confirmed his candidacy with The Dispatch. 

 

The city previously took public criticism over narrow searches for then-vacant police chief and chief administrator positions. In the past, aldermen typically approved advertising for vacancies in local newspapers, a move some public commenters this year said could impact the number and quality of candidates in various searches. 

 

Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker, whose motion expanded the search, previously said he would attempt similar national searches for vacant positions as they arise in the future. 

 

Former Community Developer William Snowden tendered his resignation in December, becoming the city's fourth significant departing employee last year. Snowden was absent from work since October when aldermen granted him six weeks of health-related leave. 

 

Before his departure, the board tasked Snowden with a comprehensive review of the city's sidewalk and landscaping ordinances. The report was slated for February after a fall delay. 

 

Since the vacancy occurred, community development employees have reported to Mayor Parker Wiseman and Chief Administrative Officer Taylor Adams, who previously gave an independent review of the sidewalk issue in which he hinted that the city could back a significant expansion project in the future, contingent on the availability of funding. 

 

Aldermen approved the ordinance reviews after Ward 2 Alderman Lisa Wynn and Ward 3 Alderman David Little said the city's current sidewalk development district places unfair burdens on developers. 

 

Starkville experienced wholesale changeover in numerous leadership positions since aldermen took over in July. Since then, the board interviewed and hired new employees for CAO, city clerk and police chief. The city also filled its municipal court clerk's job. 

 

The previous board of aldermen hired Snowden, the former Tuscaloosa, Ala., economic developer, as the city's first community developer in 2013. His salary was set then at $75,000. 

 

 

 

All options on the table for sanitation 

 

The board is expected to begin a process today seeking proposals related to outsourcing various sanitation and environmental services' operations to help balance its departmental budget without forcing a rate hike. 

 

Ward 5 Alderman Scott Maynard said Thursday he would make various proposal-seeking motions, including those for outsourcing landscaping and sanitation services as a whole, after Sanitation and Environmental Services Director Emma Gandy's preliminary Fiscal Year 2014-2015 budget asked for an additional $233,000 in revenue, or what about 1.25 mills of ad valorem taxes bring into Starkville's coffers. 

 

Additional revenue is needed to subsidize various departmental needs, Gandy said Thursday, from an extra $50,000 for garbage bag disbursements to $75,000 combined for landfill consultant expenses and equipment. 

 

Aldermen approved a $1.50 sanitation rate increase last year - Gandy previously sought a $3 hike - but Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins said there is no board will to raise taxes or increase fees. 

 

The three-person committee gave Gandy a pointed message: Tighten the department's financial belt, balance its budget and continue to do the job based on FY 2013-2014 allotments.  

 

Perkins also gave sanitation employees a stern warning in that meeting: If they are not working a full eight hours per day, they will lose their jobs.

 

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch

 

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