Posted: Thursday, August 15th 2013 at 10:40pm
Flowery Branch Council approves per diem; challenge ensues
By Marc Eggers Staff
FLOWERY BRANCH Ė Former Flowery Branch City Councilman Chris Fetterman stepped to the podium during the public comment segment of Thursday nightís City Council meeting to express his opposition to Ordinance 477: Amending the city charter to provide a per diem to the Mayor and Council Members for meeting attendance.
Fettermanís disagreement with the per diem, however, carried more than mere verbal objection to the concept. Fetterman said he would watch to see who voted in favor of the ordinance to help him decide which City Council member he would run against in November.
"Itís kind of concerning that this ordinance is going to change the charter to give you guys a 70% increase in pay," Fetterman said. "What you guys do is not about financial gain; itís about serving the people."
Fetterman listed several of the budgetary challenges that faced the city in the coming year, arguing that authorizing a per diem stipend was bad fiscal timing.
"I want you guys to vote your conscience, to vote for what is best for Flowery Branch, but in three months the people of Flowery Branch get to do the same thing," Fetterman said.
In January of 2012 Fetterman resigned from the City Council citing a need to relocate to Florida for career reasons. He had served on the Council since 2007.
A year later Fetterman was back in Flowery Branch. His plans had changed and he was eager to win back a seat on the Council.
Fetterman used WDUNís "Morning Talk" program in January of this year to announce his intention to run for the Council, adding that he would determine which particular Post he would seek at a later date.
Post 3, held by Fred Richards, Post 4, held by Joe Anglin, Post 5, held by Tara Richards, and Mayor, held by Mike Miller, are up for election in November.
Fred Richards and Joe Anglin had earlier expressed their opposition to the per diem at the measureís first reading in July.
Tonight Mr. Richards re-affirmed his opposition to the measure, saying, ďThere is no funding for it. If we pass this Ordinance the (City) Charter changes January 1st. I would like to seeÖthe per diem not to take effect until at least July 1st, until it is funded in the 2014 budget."
That issue was handled with an immediate amendment to the Ordinance, attaching the Ordinance's start date to the 2014 budget year that commences July 1st.
Following that detail Mayor Miller called for the vote.
Damon Gibbs and Mary Jones, Posts 1 and 2 respectively, voted in favor of the measure.
Fred Richards and Joe Anglin, Posts 3 and 4, voted against the Ordinance.
The decisive vote was cast in favor of the per diem by Tara Richards, Post 5.
The Ordinance was approved 3-2.
"I am going to run for Post 5, which is Tara Richardsí seat," Fetterman said from the elevated sidewalk in front of City Hall as Council met in closed Executive Session.
When asked for her response to Fettermanís announcement, Ms. Richards said, "Iím thrilled that he is running against me. I think itís a win-win for me."
Richards said that she knew this was probably going to happen and had weighed very carefully her decision to vote in favor of the Ordinance.
"We made a conscious decision this year to improve the 'live-work-play-serve' environment in Flowery Branch," Richards began to explain.
"We have to get our compensation and our benefits competitive with those surrounding jurisdictions."
Richards explained how efforts had been made to make pay scales and health care benefits for City employees comparable with other cities, and now it was time to address those in leadership.
"We want(ed) to attract and retain quality professionals from the leadership all the way down. We want(ed) to incentivize every employee of the City of Flowery Branch," Richards said, saying that the time had come.
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