The search for a new Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District director will continue for at least another couple of weeks to see if there is possibly a suitable candidate who didn’t meet the deadline to apply.
That deadline was Friday, July 3, and only five people submitted resumés for the position. They were:
• James Burrus of Rogers.
• Thomas Hodges of Farmington.
• Danny Ohler of Harrison.
• Scott Smith of Yellville.
• Richard Swan of Savannah, Texas.
At a Tuesday morning meeting in Harrison, waste district board chairman Fred Woehl asked search committee chairman and Bull Shoals Mayor David Nixon for a progress report in choosing a candidate.
Nixon said that of the five, only one had direct experience in the field and that was somewhat “problematic.” Others included an electrical engineer, a lawyer and a retired general, all of whom Nixon said would probably be able to work in a dense regulatory field such as managing solid waste.
He said the position was pretty widely advertised, but none of the applicants were “terribly exciting. I guess that’s not surprising given our circumstances.”
The district is strapped for money after paying legal fees for several lawsuits regarding the $18 fee that has drawn so much criticism from commercial and residential property owners.
Nixon said he hadn’t talked to the other committee members at length about the process, but he suggested the district might want to consider extending the application timeframe for another couple of weeks and advertise again.
Harrison Mayor Jerry Jackson said he would strongly recommend continuing the search. He said he didn’t think someone from outside the state should be offered the position because the board has no idea about the future of the district. He would hate to relocate someone from out of state and then find out in two years that they won’t have a job.
In discussion, board members were told that advertised requirements for the job included a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or five years’ experience in the field with a salary between $40,000 and $60,000 a year. Jackson said it appeared to him they were probably going to have to hire someone without experience, but willing to learn quickly.
Woehl reminded the board that the contract with interim director Bill Lord expires in mid-August, so the board should consider extending that contract term.
Baxter County Judge Mickey Pendergrass asked about the terms of a contract with a new director. Would he or she be an employee with insurance and benefits? Would the person be provided office space?
“It’s being advertised as a contract position,” Lord said.
Pendergrass said he thought it unlikely they would find someone to run the district and pay expenses out of their own pocket.
Lord said it is very difficult for one person to do all that has to be done as director. He said he had hired his sister-in-law, a retired administrative assistant, out of his own pocket to enter data and help with necessary reports.
Nixon said that all those circumstances, the need for hiring staff and supplying office space for themselves, makes the job less appealing.
“Who in their right mind would apply for a job like that?” Nixon questioned.
“And whoever would, we probably don’t want them,” Jackson said.
Nixon said the additional search time might not yield any new results, so he asked, “What next?”
“That’s a good question,” district lawyer John Verkamp said, “and there’s no answer to that.”
The district’s bank accounts were frozen as a result of writs of garnishment filed in each of the five counties where judges have found the $18 fee to be unconstitutional.
Verkamp said the district may have to consider putting roll-off containers to collect trash periodically, then impose a smaller fee of some sort on property owners in order to continue to monitor the landfill in Baxter County as is required by law, for 30 years.
“I don’t know how else you’re going to get money to operate with creditors always out there looming over us,” Verkamp said.
Jackson said the salary offered equates to about $30 an hour, although Woehl pointed out that it’s a contract and the candidate would have to pay insurance and Social Security.
Jackson said the candidate might want to work from home. They could possibly have a spouse with insurance at another employer.
“This is a pretty attractive job, if you ask me,” Jackson said.
Jackson went on to say that the board should consider lowering the requirements for potential candidates. It could be that someone in the workforce who hasn’t been on to college might be the kind of candidate the board would need.
The board eventually voted to extend the application period for another 30 days. Lord’s contract was extended for another 90 days, although Lord said there is a provision in his contract that either party can terminate the contract with written notice.