The Harrison City Council met in regular session Thursday night and concluded action bringing the city’s Parks and Recreation under direct control of the city.
The second and third final reading of the ordinance dissolving the Harrison Parks and Recreation Commission and creating the Parks and Recreation Department and the position of a department head, was adopted after months of discussion and planning.
The ordinance calls for the department head (the director) to be appointed by the mayor.
Language in this portion of the ordinance raised a concern by council member Wayne Cone. The ordinance needed clarification that the director (as worded in a section of the ordinance) is the department head. He also questioned who hires and fires the department head under the ordinance’s language.
The ordinance reads that it is contemplated that the mayor will consult with the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee should the mayor wish to remove the department head, ensuring that the Advisory Committee’s recommendation regarding the same is considered.
The city has several department heads and if this ordinance is passed it is going to show favor to this department head, Cone said. This department head is going to have a committee of people behind him that is going to set him above the rest of the department heads who don’t have that committee pulling for them, Cone said.
The mayor is the one and only one who hires and fires department heads, Cone continued.
Parks department head Chuck Eddington said that he wasn’t hired by the mayor, rather it was by the Parks and Recreation Commission. He said that since the ordinance changes how the department is managed, he felt the language was added to make him feel comfortable, though he said he knows he could be fired tomorrow.
It gives the appearance there is another group that could influence the decision of the mayor, said council member Mitch Magness. “I understand Wayne’s concern. I still see the mayor as having full authority over that department head,” he said. The advisory committee only exists in the parks department. The mayor appoints the advisory committee members, Eddington noted. There are seven commissioners now. They will be rolled into the advisory committee. Two more advisory committee members will be added, one a city council member and another at large. They cannot serve more than three terms consecutively. They will be on staggered terms to be determined.
The ordinance reads: “Position 1 will be a City Council Member appointed by the Mayor. Positions 2, 3, 4, and 5 will be appointed by the Mayor.
“Positions 6, 7, 8, and 9 will be appointed by the Director (department head), with the approval of the Mayor and the City Council. Each Committee Member will be appointed for a three (3) year term.
“For purposes of creating staggered terms, on the initial Advisory Committee, three (3) members shall be appointed to a one (1) year term, three (3) members shall be appointed to a two (2) year term, and three (3) members shall be appointed to a three (3) year term.
“After all initial terms have expired, all successive Members shall serve for three (3) year terms. Members may serve a total of three (3) consecutive terms for a total of nine (9) years.”
Magness made the motion to change the wording to denote department head rather than director. No other amendments to the ordinance were made.
Council members present voted for the ordinance as read by title only, except Cone who voiced a no vote.