Alma City Council members approved two measures Thursday that will place parks duties under the city planner and increase his salary.
During their monthly meeting Thursday night, council members unanimously passed an ordinance placing direct supervision of Alma Parks Department employees and oversight of parks, including maintenance, budget and operations of all city parks, under Alma City Planner Buddy Grey.
A resolution was then passed increasing the salary of the city planner from $48,000 to $59,000 and a correlating increase in benefits based on the new responsibilities. The increase in salary is directly tied to the added duties, said Alma City Attorney Rinda Baker.
Alma’s city cemetery and the Alma Aquatic Center fall under the scope of city parks.
Alderman John Ware brought the measures to the council for consideration. Council members discussed the decision to move parks duties to the city planner during a recent study session.
“We’re seeing some potential for a lot of parks growth,” Ware said at the session. “There’s a lot of responsibility that someone needs to take, but we’re a long way from needing a full-time parks department head.”
Mayor Keith Greene argued Thursday that the city would need a department head for parks by the beginning of January, when city officials expect to take over about 45 acres being donated for a new park.
Several council members, including Ware and aldermen James McGhee and Jerry Martin, disagreed. They expect a department head won’t be needed for another three to five years, the said.
Greene also argued that the emergency clause on the park duties ordinance was too vague, and said he didn’t see the need to put the ordinance into effect immediately.
“I wrote that clause based on the concerns council members expressed at their study session,” Baker said. “It’s factually sound.”
At the study session, several council members expressed concern over what was characterized as “excessive” maintenance costs at the aquatic park.
Ware reiterated that concern Thursday night.
“It just seems we have a lot of emergency expenditures, and with emergencies things are always more expensive,” Ware said.
With his background in engineering, Grey is capable of “getting out from behind his desk” to check on maintenance issues in person and determine the best course of action, Ware said.
Also during their meeting Thursday night, council members considered who oversees the maintenance issues for buildings owned by the city but used for outside purposes - such as the community center and public library.
Alma Public Library recently had problems with its air-conditioning unit beginning in mid May, and the problem was not resolved until mid June.
Ware asked the mayor about the chain of responsibility.
Building inspector Jerry Parsons had been responsible for maintenance issues in the past, the mayor said, but it was not clear if he continued to handle those duties now that he was overseen by the city planner.
Grey noted that if Parsons is to be the contact for those outside maintenance issues, Grey should also be notified so that he can oversee the issue and make decisions about large costs.
“If it gets beyond a minor point, I don’t see where Jerry has the responsibility to cause that kind of expenditure,” Grey said.
But at the end of the meeting, when asked by Crawford County Library System Director Eva White who she should contact if another issue with the library arose, Greene told her to call him.
Council members also approved Alma Fire Chief Eddie Wakefield to use $30,000 of bond money to hire an architect to design the city’s new fire station. Wakefield, also a member of the city council, recused himself from the vote.