THOMASVILLE, GA (WALB) - Recently, in an interview with WALB, current council members in Thomasville discussed city employee bonuses.
A concern brought up in that interview was the knowledge of employee pay. A former council member, Max Beverly, said the salaries are usually discussed during budgeting.
Former councilman discusses council knowledge of employee pay
"I'm a little puzzled about the comment that the city council, I've seen it several places, that the council was unaware of them," said Beverly.
Beverly said over the years there has been a lot of discussion about the compensation of upper management staff in the city of Thomasville.
According to Beverly, the only salary set by the city council is the salary of the city manager.
About five years ago, Beverly said the council had several compensation studies done to make sure these executive staff members were being paid fairly, not overpaid and not underpaid.
The city pays its staff a 90 percent base pay salary, 10 percent lump sum and up to a 10 percent performance bonus.
"These were included in the budget and voted on my council," explained Beverly.
Beverly said the studies are done to make sure the pay is fair, a lot of this is done to make sure the city is retaining qualified and long-term employees. He said the city of Thomasville has many employees that display a high level of professionalism.
"We don't want to be overpaying our senior management, that wasn't a goal. It was a goal the whole time I was on the city council to make sure that the people who provide an excellent level of service to the city are retained. You have a lot of folks that have a set of job skills, work ethic and intelligence that would translate well to many other organizations. We don't want to lose those people by underpaying them." said Beverly.
Beverly said it wasn't a topic frequently discussed, but they do talk about it when discussing the budget.
"We didn't have regular discussions about what a department head was making," said Beverly.
Splitting utilities and government
For many years now, through two city managers, Thomasville's superintendent of utilities position and city manager position have been held by the same individual, the acting city manager.
Beverly said there is a reason for that.
"I think that splitting the two sides of the government would be a major mistake. I think the efforts that have been put forth over the last three decades, it took years to integrate the two sides to one team," said Beverly.
The former councilman said that the combining of the two departments put Thomasville in a position to accomplish things that few cities have been able to do.
Beverly's fears of splitting the two sides are that there will be increased costs and the city will lose intangibles that have been achieved by the integration.
"One thing is that you have all city employees in effect working for one team," said Beverly.
Beverly recalled about 15 years before he served on council, two separate teams.
"You either worked for Thomasville Utilities or you worked for the government. You didn't have the level of cooperation between for example the utilities department and police department, the police department and fire department," explained Beverly.
Beverly said it allows employees to have common goals.
"There used to be two finance departments, two HR departments, there are a lot of redundancies that have been eliminated," said Beverly.
Beverly's concern is the structure of the city government.
"The police department and fire department would be under general government. The electric department, water department, water and sewer, gas would all be under utilities. But there are a whole lot of departments in the middle that I don't know how you would structure an organization like the city of Thomasville with two heads, without having to split in two the functions between the general government and utilities side." said Beverly.
Utilities rate hike voted down
In January, the new city council was asked to look at approving a potential rate increase and voted it down.
"As I understand, turning down that utilities rate increases will have somewhere in the range of a half million dollar impact on the city budget this year. Thomasville is in the position that the loss of a half million dollars of revenue shouldn't be devastating financially to the city," said Beverly.
The new council does not want to raise the rates.
"There are other ways the city can make up for that lost revenue but that needs to be planned for," Beverly explained.
That rate increase was in the budget that was passed in December by a majority of the council.
"Something needs to be planned by the council to make sure the budget that was passed considers the loss of revenue," said Beverly.
Beverly said the rate increases were scheduled to cover the extensive amount of work for the sewer lines and water treatment plant.
That work was done on a Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) loan.
"That's a pretty substantial amount of debt, and included in the city taking on the debt was a scheduled series of rate increases in the water department," said Beverly.
Beverly said that the work was needed because about four or five years ago the city saw massive repair bills.
Former councilman creates a podcast
Being a city council member is considered a part-time job, but if you talk with any council member or former council member they will tell you otherwise.
There is a lot of things done behind the scenes, events to go to, workshops to attend, information to study that would lead many to argue it is a full-time commitment.
Beverly is using his newfound free time to still stay on top of city business through his new podcast "On Point & Counterpoints."
"I have been a fan of podcasts for a long time, I think it's a neat way to listen to a whole variety of things," said Beverly.
Beverly said he had several people reach out to him after the election about starting a podcast.
"After I rolled out of office, I made some comments about the first council meeting to a few people I know and they said, 'Why don't you try to do that podcast?'" said Beverly.
Beverly said he's not sure exactly how long he's going to do it or how many episodes are in store for the future, but he hopes to continue it for the time being.
"I hope to start branching out and start covering a few more aspects of life in Thomasville, other than just being focused on Thomasville city council," said Beverly.
With years of city knowledge, Beverly said it has been easy to do the podcast and not much research has to be done before the episodes.
"All the episodes I've done, I've recorded riding down the road, " said Beverly.