The Glen Rose City Council Monday night voted 3-2 to reject a motion by Councilman Bob Stricklin to hire a part-time administrator.
Mayor Pam Miller cast the deciding vote to break the tie. Stricklin and Sue Oldbenburg favored the motion while council members Chris Bryant and Johnny Martin voted against it. Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Mitchell was not present.
Stricklin had placed the item on the agenda to contact the Texas First Group, an organization that includes retired city managers who act as consultants to cities who need interim managers or help on projects.
Two representatives of Texas First Group, Kerry Sweatts and Olen Petty, briefed the council on their work for other cities Monday night.
The agenda item said they would talk about how they could develop an operational and personnel plan for Oakdale Park. The former city managers said they weren’t park experts and recommended the city take a broader look.
“I think you’re going to have a terrible time just trying to fix just the park without involving the entire city picture,” said Petty, who’s been a city manager 13 times, including twice in two cities.
He recalled working in Bonham and finding the city government there in turmoil.
“Everybody hated everybody,” he recalled. “It was the biggest mess you ever saw.”
The council members didn’t like each other. Employees were mad at each other. The city manager had just been fired.
“You can’t serve your citizens in turmoil,” he said. “The only reason we exist as city employees it to serve the citizens of the community.”
Petty said he was there for a year to get things ready for hiring a city manager and did not lose a single employee.
He added he was “really, really impressed with what you’ve got” in Glen Rose.
“But I would sure encourage you to look at a program that hires a pilot who’s in charge of the plane,” Petty said. “It won’t work to have four or five people driving the plane.”
Councilman Chris Bryant asked Sweatts how he would go about developing a park plan.
“Our role in relation to the park would be to look at what’s needed and try to develop a plan both from a management standpoint, personnel needs, infrastructure needs,” Sweatts replied. “We reviewed the park and it’s beautiful — lots of possibilities — but there also needs to be a plan before you spend a lot more money — how are you going to lay it out, who’s going to be in charge of it and how is it going to run? All of those are management decisions that you as a council have to make with good advice from a manager or an administrator.”
Stricklin said in hindsight he should not have put the position on the agenda in the context of Oakdale Park since the retired managers have broader experience.
“Their expertise is not just to come do a park,” Stricklin said. “Their expertise is in setting up management systems.”
“I still feel we need a city administrator,” Stricklin added. “There are just things that need to be cleaned up and squared around. This is a way we could do it without hiring a permanent administrator. We could at least get everything going in the right direction so when everyone feels we can hire an administrator, they can hit the ground running.”
Bryant asked whether either Sweatts or Petty could point to specifics of what they did to help the cities where they worked on an interim basis.
“Our role in any city we’ve been in is whatever the mayor and council directed,” Sweatts said. “In most cases our job was to come in after the manager had left — in some cases we began some new programs, in some cases we literally held it together, in some cases we helped with recruiting.”
City Secretary Peggy Bush said she contacted two of the cities that had used the services of the retired city managers and received positive reports.
Martin raised the question of affordability.
“I think we’ve got bigger things to spend $60,000 on,” he said.
“If we don’t get organized, all we’re going to do is spend money here and there,” Stricklin responded. “We’re going to be in the same boat we are in now.”
“We have chosen, you know, to put this off for six months,” Miller said.
Martin said no one should expect Oakdale to be a fast turnaround.
“I don’t know why thought we’d buy that thing and it would be an instant hit with no bugs to work out,” Martin said. “I think we’ll be lucky if the renovations will be done by next summer. Then we can start off the right foot. This winter will be an excellent time for employees to get a lot of work done. You just don’t take anything like that that needs that much work done to it and do it overnight.”
“If you don’t have a plan, you don’t get anything done,” Stricklin said. “We’ve had it now for, what, 10 months without any plan. We need help to get ourselves organized.”
Oldenburg said she knew of two RV groups — one with 80 to 100 RVs and the other with 35 — that were interested in coming to Oakdale Park a weekend. But there are not enough hook-ups with 50 amps, which most new RVs require, especially in the summer.
“They hesitate to come and we need to be able to tell them we will have 50-amp service for you in June of next year” or some timeframe, she said. “We’ve got to have some plan.”
Stricklin agreed that the city shouldn’t wait any longer to move forward on Oakdale.
“We don’t want to wait another year and have the public get a bad taste in its mouth,” he said. “If you get a bad rep, that’s disastrous. If we can’t get a plan, we should just close it …because going along like we are now won’t work.”
Stricklin made the motion to hire First Texas Group to come in and review personnel, job descriptions and titles, pay scales and get the city on “sound footing” with the parks department and integrate with other city departments.
Bryant said he had some concerns, especially with the cost of hiring a consultant.
“We have no timeline,” he said. “My phone rang off the hook about ‘do not hire an administrator.’ That’s what the perception of this is — that it will lead to an administrator.
“To me, Oakdale is not an issue,” Bryant said. “Oakdale is going to fix itself in time. I’m more concerned about other things in the city.”
Oldenburg, however, said she thought Oakdale was at least a place to start and that it eventually could help the city.
“I’ve talked to several businessmen and women in town and even they don’t know what to do to keep these businesses from fading and closing,” she said. “I need some ideas.”
“Do you think an administrator is going to come in with ideas to keep people in business?” Martin asked. “I don’t think so.
“We’re fighting this economy and thinking that there’s some magic we can do,” he added.
When the motion was put to a vote, Miller at first it died because of a tie. After a brief discussion with Bush, she said, “I’ll break the tie. No…at this time.”
Bryant said that although he voted “no,” he did not want to drop the topic.
“This is something I’m not going to push aside,” Bryant said. “I want to call and get some more information. This is a small town and this has been a tough topic for the last two to three years. I want to put more time into it.”
In other action, the council:
*Set Saturday, Oct. 16 at 8 a.m. as the date for a workshop and walk-through at Oakdale Park with Bryan Shaffer, executive director of the Texas Association of Campground Owners, or TACO, of which the city is a member.
Stricklin, who put the item on the agenda, said TACO offered “another avenue” to help develop a physical plan for Oakdale Park.
*Voted 3-1 to begin publicly advertising for a manager for Oakdale Park. The council decided to offer $25 an hour, with no benefits, and an annual contract with a 30-day probation period.
Stricklin, who at a previous council meeting had requested a more specific job description for a manager, voted against the motion.
*Voted to adopt an ordinance, to be drafted by City Attorney Andrew Lucas, to ban sale of synthetic marijuana, also known at K2, which has been commonly sold in “head shops” in the Metroplex and has been spreading to smaller towns.
Oldenburg, who placed the item on the agenda, said that other cities, such as Granbury, have passed similar ordinances.
The product is sold under names such as “Spice Gold” and “Fire and Ice.” Oldenburg said she was concerned that young people find such names “exciting” and that vendors can set up anywhere, even in front of a school.
“My concern is that as more and more towns around us have ordinances, more and more of these businessmen will want to come here and set up,” Oldenburg said.