Saturday, November 14, 2009

November 14, 2009 City Finance Meeting: New Administrator and Sewer Mess

This 'n that:


Interim Administrator Lynn Wampler went over the qualifications of the four candidates for city administrator. He stated that he and MTAS representative Pat Hardy did phone interviews during the previous week. Wampler said that the four on the final list are "all qualified people." Wampler expects that after the candidates complete one-on-one interviews with councilmembers, the council will be able to find a candidate who is a good match for the city and who is up to the task of putting the city on the path to financial stability.

The four include candidates, none of whom are from Morristown, are: Jody Baltz, Angie Carrier, Anthony Cox, and James Payne.

One of the local candidates who was interviewed, Rusty Smith, was present at the Finance meeting. During the discussion of the candidates, former councilmember Rick Trent asked that the council put city employee Jay Moore's name back into consideration and interview him. There were several favorable comments about Mr. Moore's performance as a department head, but in the end the council decided only to interview the four as selected by Wampler and Hardy.


The sewer situation (another city mess) and the fines and mandate that TDEC has put to the city to straighten out overflows and numerous other problems came up. The cost is going to be enormous. Brian Fowler, who is over the city sewer system, was not present at the Finance meeting.

    Fowler and city employee Lester Turner have proposed that city employees handle much of the work that has to be done, including the work that TDEC has mandated. Councilmember Bob Garrett questioned (1) whether the city employees could actually do the work cheaper than a contractor who is experienced in the work and (2) whether city employees could complete all the mandated work within the time frames set by the state.

    Turner pointed out that city workers have gradually become more proficient in using the required equipment and performing the work themselves. 

     Garrett added that if city workers do the work, the state will come in and audit the records (perhaps monthly) to verify that it is really cheaper for city employees to handle the work.

     Previously, Turner and perhaps Fowler as well did not realize that they had to include city benefits (insurance costs, retirement costs, matching social security, etc.) in the city's costs for city employees to do the work. As Garrett said, the city's true and full costs have to be included so that these costs can be accurately compared to the costs that would be incurred by hiring a contractor to do the work. Of concern to Garrett is that even if the costs are slightly lower for city employees to perform the work, he does not think that city employees can get all the work done by the state-mandated deadlines.

     Fowler was not at the meeting to discuss the sewer issue. Fowler testified this week in federal court in Greeneville in the case brought by residents of Witt and Roe Junction against Koch Foods over sewer odors that began in early 2005 at the same time that the Koch Foods plant in the East Tennessee Progress Center opened. The City was brought into the suit as an additional defendant after the lawsuit was initially filed.

    Lamar Dunn, the city's consultant on sewer system problems and sewer rates, has also testified at the federal trial.

    David Wilds of Koch Foods has testified. Cindy Krebs, who works for Veolia, has testified. Barry Calfee, who used to work for Veolia but who now works for Koch Foods, has testified. Veolia is the company with whom the City has contracted for management and operation of the city's wastewater treatment plant.

    Several of the area residents have testified, including County Commissioner Guy Collins.

    Except for one article that announced that the trial was starting, the Tribune has had no reports about the trial or testimony from any of the witnesses. The trial has been going on for two weeks now and is expected to wind up next week.

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