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UPDATED: Talladega council again takes pass on approving changes to job descriptions

2019 Talladega City Council sworn in 11-04-19  tw.jpg

The new Talladega City Council is sworn in Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. Shown, from left, are Joe Power, Dr. Horace Patterson, Betty Spratlin, Trae Williams and Vickey Robinson Hall. They were sworn in by Talladega County Circuit Judge Chad Woodruff. 

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include the correct name of a local contestant in the Miss Alabama pageant. Talladega native Brittany Harvell is competing in the event. The original version of the story had her name incorrect. 

TALLADEGA -- The Talladega City Council once again failed to take any action on several job description revisions during its regular meeting Monday night. 

After no one made a motion to approve the changes, council President Joe Power said, “I think each of us have our own issues with this,” and asked the other council members to meet individually with City Manager Beth Cheeks to discuss their concerns.

This is the second consecutive council meeting where the revisions have come up; during the council’s previous regular meeting, Councilman Trae Williams voted against immediate consideration of the changes to the ordinance. 

According to Robert’s Rules of Order, a motion for immediate consideration must be unanimous, so the changes were automatically tabled. At the time, Williams said he would prefer to see a merit-based approach for city employees, but because Talladega’s Civil Service Act is based in state law, the council has little authority to make major changes.

The changes proposed would affect positions across five city departments, including the municipal airport.

Although the city has always owned the airport property, the Talladega Superspeedway has served as the fixed base operator for the past half century. 

As of November 2019, however, the track allowed its agreement with the city to lapse, and the municipality had to take over day-to-day management. 

There are two full-time employees at the airport, both employed by the track until the end of last year. Both are still employed there but are now considered temporary employees because the city did not have job descriptions for them. 

By civil service law, these positions would have to be publicly advertised, and the existing employees would have to apply to keep their jobs.

During Monday’s meeting, Power asked what would happen to the new full-time employees in the event the city was able to find another private, fixed base operator. 

Cheeks said the municipality would negotiate on behalf of these employees if that happened, and the city positions would, once again, cease to exist.

Councilwoman Betty Spratlin then suggested separating out the two airport positions to be considered Monday and returning to the other positions in the future.

Cheeks said the list of changes submitted during the past two meetings also includes two positions in the Human Resources Department and one in the Finance Department that stem from the city’s decision to bring payroll in-house. These employees are already handling responsibilities related to payroll, even though those responsibilities are not reflected in their current job descriptions.

Most of the other proposed changes deal with the required experience and certifications for several positions within the Police Department. Cheeks said these changes were being recommended because the city has a relatively young police department and it is difficult under the current requirements to promote officers already working in the department.

None of the council members said publicly why they did not wish to make a motion for approval Monday night, although Williams echoed Spratlin’s concern that the changes were too broad, and Spratlin asked to be supplied with a list of all the city’s departments, who the department heads were and how many employees there were in each.

During the same meeting, the council voted 4-1 to approve the expenditures for the month, with Spratlin casting the dissenting vote.

While she did not explain her vote during the meeting, afterward, she said she had concerns about line items for the purchase of dog food for the city’s former police dog. The dog was taken out of service about four years ago after people who had been bitten by the dog filed lawsuits against the city.

Cheeks said the last of the suits had been resolved in January, and the dog had officially been retired in February. The dog food purchases that showed up on this month’s expenditures were actually made in January, and these particular expenses will not show up in the city’s finances again.

Also Monday, the council:

  • Approved the revised Capital Improvement budgets for the Water and Sewer Department and all other city departments; the two CIP budgets total just under $1 million each;

  • Approved a nearly half million dollar project to build an access road and to replace the water pumps, including one necessary for fire protection, at the Stone Hill subdivision. Power said the city had agreed to provide fire protection for the gated community, which is only partially in the city limits, in 1998, and was required to meet its obligations under that agreement. “We may have to hold our noses, but we have to approve it,” he said;

  • Approved the required annual reports on the city’s three sewage treatment plants;

  • Heard Williams request a list of the specifications for bids approved by the previous council, and asked that the council members be provided with specifications before projects in the CIP are sent out for bid;

  • Heard Cheeks announce Municipal Court would reopen June 2, starting at 1:30 p.m.;

  • Heard Cheeks announce the Police Department had gotten a Walmart grant for $1,000 for new digital cameras;

  • Heard Cheeks announce that two new recruits in the Police Department would be going to the academy in June, after their training had been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic;

  • Heard Councilman Dr. Horace Patterson ask for a report on the time needed to return telephone calls;

  • Heard Williams request that some paving signage on Coffee Street that was obstructing the paths of visually impaired people be moved;

  • Heard Spratlin thank the Police Department for the work it has done on the recent wave of shootings and other violent crimes in the city;

  • Heard Spratlin ask that the abolition of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission be placed on the agenda for the first meeting in June. Cheeks said she would draft a notice for a public hearing to proceed the vote;

  • Heard Power ask that city staff keep an eye on funding opportunities available through the federal Heroes Act currently working its way through Congress;

  • Heard Mayor Timothy Ragland ask that local residents who had not already done so to please fill out the U.S. census; and 

  • Heard Ragland ask that an advertising purchase by the city be made in the program for the Miss Alabama Pageant. Talladega native Brittany Harvell is a finalist, he said.