The Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission governing board met Monday morning in the LCPC conference room to discuss a request by Hinesville officials to amend the LCPC’s 2015 budget.
“I received a letter from Hinesville City Manager Billy Edwards about the city’s budget issues, with a request we reduce or eliminate (LCPC employees’) raises and Christmas bonuses,” Flemington Mayor and LCPC Governing Board Chair Sandra Martin said. “That’s our main business in today’s meeting.”
During their Oct. 15 meeting, board members agreed to a budget that included merit raises and what were called Christmas bonuses.
LCPC Executive Director Jeff Ricketson told Martin, Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, Midway Mayor Clemontine Washington, Walthourville Mayor Daisy Pray and Allenhurst Mayor Thomas Hines that he wanted to propose an alternative plan that would save each city the same amount of money to eliminate the raises and bonuses.
“Looking at the history of (merit raises and Christmas bonuses) for LCPC employees compared with county and (Hinesville) city employees, LCPC employees have not fared as well over the last five years,” Ricketson said. “I wanted to offer for your consideration an alternative that will accommodate Hinesville’s request and not eliminate (LCPC) employees’ pay increase.”
Ricketson said his staff now is short one member. He said he has not yet advertised the position vacated by former LCPC Planner Joey Patenaude because he wanted to speak with the board members first. He proposed delaying filling that position until March 1. The money saved by keeping the position open for three months would be equal to what they would save by not giving the pay increase, he said.
“Let me ask this question,” Washington said, addressing Thomas, rather than Ricketson. “Will the city of Hinesville give their employees a Christmas bonus?”
“Right now, we don’t know,” Thomas said. “We vote on it on Thursday. There are some (council members) who don’t want to do it and some that do.”
Washington then asked Ricketson how much would LCPC save by not filling the vacant position. He said $12,000 — the same amount contributing municipalities would save if LCPC didn’t pay merit raises and bonuses. He said they can delay filling the position at this time because December through early March usually are the LCPC’s slowest months.
“There’s not as much permit activity during this time,” he said. “Even though we’ve got six rezoning requests this month, normally between now and March are our slow months.”
Martin said the LCPC has done a lot for her city and believed LCPC employees deserved a raise. She added that she was saying that as an LCPC governing-board member, not as chairwoman.
“I agree with Mayor Martin,” Hines said. “The LCPC does a lot. Workers depend on a raise every year, and they look forward to Christmas bonuses. These employees work hard all year. They deserve a raise. And if I understand it, the savings is the same if we vote to hold off on this position or knock out the raises.”
He mentioned a memorandum from Ricketson to board members that compared pay raises of LCPC employees with county and Hinesville employees since 2009. Hines said the difference was enormous and reiterated that LCPC employees deserved raises. Pray added that since they previously had approved the raises and bonuses, it wasn’t fair to go back and take those away.
Before a motion was made to amend the LCPC budget, Ricketson pointed out that no amendment was necessary, that they only needed to agree to allow him to delay filling the vacant position for three months. All members present agreed.
In other business, Martin said Don Emmons, one of the LCPC’s nine commissioners, had resigned for health reasons, and a replacement was needed. Ricketson said the position has been advertised in the Coastal Courier, but if board members have someone in mind as a replacement, they can send their recommendations to him.
Five mayors of the seven municipalities supporting the LCPC were present. Gum Branch Kathy Todd and Riceboro Mayor Bill Austin were absent, as was Liberty County Board of Commissioners Chairman Donald Lovett.