Budget committee debates project management amid Animal Shelter projects

Conversations about project management and economic development continued in Monday evening’s monthly Budget Committee meeting, when the Buildings and Grounds Committee asked Budget to allocate funds towards the acquisition of a part-time project manager for the county.

Chairperson Layla Ward did not have a recommended pay rate to suggest, nor did she provide a possible job description Budget could use.

The conversation has been a point of contention among county commissioners for the past several months, but the debate has more direct consequences for the County Animal Shelter, whose director Shannon Posada and Commissioner Sonja Culler came to the meeting.

“We have a $10,000 donation to the shelter, but we have no one to accept it,” Culler said.

The shelter is in the middle of a number of different renovation and expansion projects in an effort to provide more room for rescued animals, but these projects cannot continue without a project manager to work alongside the architect to oversee the project to its completion.

Further complicating matters, the donations specifically state the money must be used for these projects, and the shelter must comply with the donator’s request, meaning the shelter might have to reject thousands of dollars in community donations due to the commission’s inability to get through this roadblock.

Originally, project management has fallen to the Planning Commission, but disagreement arose during the budget cycle in May as to whether it should.

“This should be separate,” Commissioner Aaron Frazier said. “They are being paid for a different job. This is not something you want to jam into somebody who already has a full-time job.”

Commissioner Ross Garland disagreed, saying those among Planning have already put in the time to receive special certification to perform these extra duties.

“I think certified people should be doing this,” Garland said.

Having county employees carry out multiple, full-time positions, however, has repeatedly raised concerns about how to compensate Planning employees. Budget and the full commission each failed twice to pass Planning’s proposed pay increases over a two month period starting late May, and so the conversation continued.

Commissioner Brad Johnson said Planning has already proven its need for a pay increase due to the increased time they have already put into performing these duties.

“Do you not think this deserves a salary increase?” Johnson said.

Eventually, after an hour and a half of debate, Frazier proposed beginning the process of creating a job listing for a part-time planning director for the county, with a maximum of 29.5 hours a week to reduce cost. Garland and Commissioner Kelly Collins voted against the proposal, but the motion passed.

None of the above conversations, however, solved the immediate problem at the Shelter, who wants to get their projects started before the ground gets too cold to work on. Having to wait another month for a decision to come to fruition was not an acceptable outcome.

In the last five minutes of what became a four-hour meeting, Frazier proposed allocating $3,000 for the Animal Shelter to hire their own project manager for the remainder of the calendar year. By then, he said, the commissioners can hopefully reach a more permanent solution to this problem.

Travis Hill as the lone dissenting vote, so the motion passed. Now it goes to the full commission next Monday, August 19, which meets at 6 p.m. at the county courthouse.

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