The Starkville Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday night to advertise for a temporary, full-time worker to fill City Building Inspector Ken Honeycutt’s position while he is on a leave of absence.
Honeycutt has been on paid leave since early November, when he was shot in the pelvis by City Code Officer Jeff Lyles while the two were hunting in Choctaw County.
The terms of the temporary position were the subject of a protracted discussion, with Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins challenging Personnel Director Randy Boyd’s initial proposal to advertise the position at a salary range of $35,000 to $47,000 and full benefits, to continue until Honeycutt returns to the job or terminates his employment with the city.
Perkins said the salary range could result in a replacement being hired at a higher salary than Honeycutt, who makes $40,700 per year, and it could cause dissension and lower morale among other employees.
In addition, he expressed concerns over the lack of an ending date, citing an instance where the city hired a temporary, full-time animal control officer to replace an officer on leave, then hired the temporary worker permanently when the staff member returned to duty.
Perkins said most temporary hires are paid a flat hourly rate and do not receive benefits, but Boyd said he was simply following through on what he thought the aldermen wanted.
“We need to have some consistency with these personnel decisions,” Perkins said.
The board unanimously passed a motion by Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas to advertise for a temporary, full-time building inspector, at an hourly rate comparable to Honeycutt’s salary with no benefits, ending in four months.
The board also voted unanimously to hire two temporary, full-time sanitation workers to replace one worker who has been on leave for a year and another who has been out for five months. The workers will be hired for four months at $8.81 per hour, with no benefits.
The aldermen also revisited the stormwater drainage utility fee, with Perkins saying installing a $2.50 fee for residents and a $5 fee for businesses would be “unlawful” according to the state Attorney General.
Mayor Parker Wiseman had proposed the fee to help offset an anticipated gap between expected revenue and project costs over the next decade.
But Monday night, Wiseman said the Attorney General’s opinion was filled with so much caution that he feels its best to leave the subject alone rather than risk legal action against the city. To his knowledge, he said, no other Mississippi municipalities charge a stormwater drainage utility fee.
City Attorney Chris Latimer said the Attorney General’s opinion was “just one lawyer’s opinion,” and the matter will have to be tested in order to know the extent of the law, but Wiseman disagreed.
“I don’t think we want to expose the city to potentially being a test case,” Wiseman said.
The aldermen also received an update on Fire Station No. 5 from Starkville Fire Chief Rodger Mann.
The 5,000 square foot, state-of-the-art station was constructed with a $937,328 grant and held its grand opening in August, but Mann said the department is now seeking another grant to staff the station.
Four firefighters have been hired, but Mann said he would need at least eight more firefighters to keep the station open full-time instead of every third day, as it is operating now.
Station No. 5, located at the corner of Garrard Road and the Highway 25 bypass, will bolster firepower in the northern and western parts of the city and may help lower the city’s fire insurance rating, Mann said.
The aldermen will meet again April 3 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.