Cajah's Mountain boosts pay for manager

Sep. 02, 2014 @ 09:02 PM

After delaying making a decision since July, the Cajah's Mountain Town Council agreed Tuesday to pay the interim town manager more while the town looks for a permanent replacement.

Interim Town Manager Jim Chandler had asked in July for the town to raise his pay from $425 a week to $500 and also pay him 56 cents a mile for his 40-mile round trip from his home in Hickory. Chandler, who retired Jan. 1, 2012, from a job with the Western Piedmont Council of Governments, started work as a part-time manager two days a week May 8 after longtime manager Connie South resigned under pressure April 26.

"I would hope I'm doing at least as good a job as the person before me," Chandler said Tuesday.

Councilman Lloyd Robbins voted against raising Chandler's pay.

"It's nothing personal against Chandler, but it's hard for me to pay someone that amount of money in this economy," Robbins said.

Council members also agreed that Mayor Ronnie Setzer, Chandler, two council members and Anthony Starr,the  assistant executive director for the Western Piedmont Council of Governments, meet regularly to find a candidate by December, when Chandler's contract expires.

In other business, Chandler told the council members that the town's insurance premiums increased nearly 30 percent, from $6,698 to $9,330 a year, after adding liability for public officials to the existing policy.

The policy, through First Security Insurance in Hickory, previously covered the town hall and a sewer pump station, but Chandler said liability coverage for the council members was important.

He said he thinks the covered buildings are over-valued, so he hopes to be able to get a lower the premium, but there is no good option for the moment but to pay the bill.

"I expected it to be somewhat expensive, but our current coverage expires today," Chandler told the council.

Chandler suggested using the N.C. League of Municipalities to find cheaper comparable coverage and then cancel the existing policy down the road.

"I would not receomment leaving the town unprotected," he said.

Mayor pro tem Allen Stewart said after the meeting that council members were left out of the insurance policy decisions when the town purchased the policy two years ago.

"A lot of contracts we had were loosely done, and we had no input," Stewart said. "In retrospect, we should have been over a lot of this stuff. Things got done, but we have the responsibility as elected officials to oversee contracts."