An otherwise uneventful city council meeting Thursday heated up during the public comments session when a Hinesville resident asked the council about the 1.5 percent cost of living increase budgeted for city employees in 2013.
Jackie Scott, an employee with public works contractor CH2MHill/OMI, asked the council if the COLA raise applied to all employees. Answering for the council, City Manager Billy Edwards said the COLA raise applied to all city employees.
Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier and Councilman Keith Jenkins both said they thought the COLA raise applied to all employees, including employees of contractors like OMI.
“We’ve never dictated to OMI how they handle their salaries,” said Edward.
“It was my understanding it was a 1.5 percent raise across the board because of the economy,” said Jenkins. “If it’s performance based, I’m totally against it.”
Gregg Higgins, OMI director, said his company has been contracted with the city for over 20 years. During that time, he said his company has always had a merit-based promotion system.
“We’ve never done COLA raises,” he said, explaining his company’s philosophy to encourage efficiency and motivation among its employees by linking promotions to performance. “Right now, we have two or three employees who haven’t gotten a raise.”
Jenkins became visibly angry, saying he never would have approved a budget that did not include all employees in the COLA. Nearly shouting, he said nobody could dictate to the city how the city could spend its money.
During the city’s budget workshop last month, all council members but especially Frasier and Jenkins expressed concerns about the COLA raise only applying to city employees. At that time, Edwards pointed out that employees of contractors were not city employees. Although they were still concerned, leaders agreed the 1.5 percent COLA was the best they could do for city employees, who would not get a Christmas bonus or merit raise.
In other business, the council approved the intergovernmental agreement for local sales tax distribution but decided to hold action on a bid for the new entrance to OMI. They also approved a memorandum of understanding with the Georgia Department of Transportation about relocating utility lines as part of the project to widen Veterans Parkway.
The council later approved to sell the GDOT two small plots on Airport Road that were needed by the state to increase right-of-ways.
The council agreed to reappoint Justin McCartney to the Grievance & Appeals Committee and gave the city permission to fill the vacancy of retiring Fire Marshal Rick Perryman. The council also approved the renewal of several alcoholic beverage licenses.
A Show Cause Hearing was conducted following the council meeting. Clayton Anderson, owner of The Big Cheesy on 726 East Oglethorpe Highway was asked to come before the board to explain his business’ failure to derive a minimum of 60 percent of gross revenue from food sales.
Two times since opening for business in March 2012, the business has failed to meet this standard for a Class II alcohol license for a restaurant with a full kitchen and bar. Big Cheesy’s July report showed only 37.1 percent of gross sales were for food, and their October report showed only 53.55 percent of gross sales were for food.
The owner told the council he has recently changed and added to his menu and said he believes food sales will now increase with the expanded menu.
Councilmen Jenkins and Floyd told the owner if his business does not comply with the applicable law, they could be placed on probation. While saying that no action will be taken at this time, Frasier told him if his business does not comply, the council will take action.