Communication Builds Our Community

New Pre-Agenda Workshop Earns Commissioner Support

Discussion Includes City Manager Search, Interim's Pay

Lake Wales City Commissioners spent a little under two hours in a workshop session June 10 becoming familiar with next Tuesday's regular June 16 meeting agenda and sharing their opinions informally with their colleagues and city staff.

Commissioners indicated they like the new pre-agenda workshop proposed by new Interim City Manager James Slaton to identify and address commissioner questions prior to distribution of the formal agenda and to obtain their input on proposed action items. Commissioners have expressed frustration in the past that their regular twice monthly meetings are the only time they can share ideas and discuss issues with each other.

One discussion centered on increasing Slaton's pay because of his increased responsibilities, after he was named interim manager June 3. It will still take formal action but commissioners agreed to split the difference between Slaton's $112,500 salary as deputy city manager and recently retired City Manager Ken Fields' $139,390 annual salary. They rounded up and agreed a salary of $126,000 for Slaton would be fair.

They also discussed the process for hiring a permanent city manager, but didn't come to an agreement. City commissioners Terrye Howell and Curtis Gibson said they wanted to give Slaton a six-month probationary period, and then undertake a full search only if they were dissatisfied with the job he was doing. Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson and Commissioner Al Goldstein indicated support for moving forward with hiring a consultant to begin the search process. Mayor Eugene Fultz again expressed his opinion that he didn't think a consultant would bring forward anyone as qualified and committed as Slaton, but he wasn't averse to exploring search options.

Commissioners expressed confidence in Slaton's ability to lead the city and indicated their full support for him moving forward with whatever decisions and changes he thinks are needed. Slaton has worked for the city for 17 years and prior to his promotion supervised nine departments and served as city manager in Fields' absence.

An internet search showed professional search firms are likely to charge as much as $30,000 plus expenses and generally take three to six months to complete the process and bring forward recommended candidates.

One item on next week's agenda that drew some discussion was setting new fire fees. Finance Director Dorothy Abbott said Fields recommended a five percent increase in the fire fees, which would generate an extra $240,000 to offset fire department expenses. Abbott said the current rates generate about $1 million of the annual $3.1 million fire service budget. Abbott said commissioners could decide any increase was not to exceed 5 percent, but they always could set a lower amount.

Abbott told commissioners the latest estimates show the city will see about a $420,000 revenue shortfall for the remainder of this budget year, which ends Sept. 30, and potentially more than double that for the 2020-2021 year, which begins Oct. 1.


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