Florala approves raise for city workers

Published 12:43 am Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thanks to a “computing error in its favor,” the Florala City Council approved a more than $1.2 million budget Monday that included a 3 percent cost of living adjustment and one-time pay raise for its employees.

It was “good news” for the city when the error was uncovered, said Mayor Robert Williamson.

“Generally, when something like that happens it’s usually to the bank’s favor, but not this time,” Williamson said. “The good news is that the computer that was doing the computing of the rows and columns was not accurately computing and, in this case, to our favor, because of it we were able to do some things that we didn’t think we could — like the cost of living adjustment.”

Williamson said the figures do include the revenue generated by the recently approved 15 percent in business license fees and an expected 5 percent reduction in sales tax revenue.

“Of course, we hope (that reduction) is not true, but it wouldn’t be smart of us to expect any different,” he said.

Williamson said the budget did include one cut not previously discussed — a reduction in hours of the police department secretary to 30 hours per week.

“When we did that and with the change in computing, we were able to give the 3 percent COLA,” he said.

The increase is effective Jan. 1, 2009.

Additionally, another issue council members discussed was to “expeditiously” take care of derelict, unsightly and unsafe structures — going as far as to name its first two projects — a residence on Seventh Avenue and a business on Fifth Street.

Councilman Jimmy Waldrop said the city has been trying to rectify a situation on Seventh Avenue for two years.

“For two years, we have written the owner to take care of that property,” Waldrop said. “He kind of laughs at us. In 1995, the city passed an ordinance that has a lot of teeth. It tells step by step what to do, and it’s time for us to do something.”

Waldrop said the ordinance outlines the procedure that, after notification by certified mail, the property owner has 30 days to rectify the problem. After that, the next step is to pass a resolution condemning property.

“And if those property owners can’t afford (to clean up the property), we can demolish the building and charge them,” he said. “This problem shouldn’t have gone on this long.”

Waldrop said he would like to see police officers used as code enforcement officers.

Council members agreed to take the necessary steps to clean up the two properties.

“We’ve also got a lot of grass complaints,” he said. “There’s one on Third and Eucalyptus, and another behind Evans Funeral Home. We need to get a hold on it.”

Waldrop asked the public to notify their respective councilperson of any property situation.

“Notify us and let us take care of it,” he said. “The last administration tore down and burned eight to 10 structures. It can be done. Trying to track down the people is the hard part. Typing letters is easy. Just get us an address and we’ll do something about it.”

In other business, the council:

Approved a $2 per hour pay increase retroactive to Nov. 17 and effective until the end of the month as an appropriation for the temporary chief.

Approved a contract extension for Joy Taylor, a contract bookkeeper, through the end of January at a rate of $14 per hour and no more than 40 hours per week.

Waived the $50 fee for the use of the old armory for the use of the Carver Community Center for the purpose of holding a community Christmas party on Dec. 20 and for a fund-raising reunion for the center set for July 4.

Approved a $100 one-time pay raise for all full time city employees; $50 for part time and $100 for each volunteer fire fighter.

Declared a 2000 Ford Crown Victoria as surplus and announced the sale of the vehicle. Minimum bid is $2,500.

Held the first reading of the proposed fee schedule change for business licenses.