Loudon City Council on Monday mulled breaking the city utilities manager and city manager position into two.
Both positions are held by Ty Ross. The request, which created tension during the workshop, was made by Councilwoman Tammi Bivens.
“My effort in this is under Mr. Ross’ leadership as city manager, this city has grown,” Bivens said. “We have seen a lot of progress, and we hope to continue the progress. … The thought process on this is, I think the city is ready for a full-time manager.”
Loudon resident Roger Nash disagreed.
“Are there things falling through the crack right now that Mr. Ross isn’t doing on the other side of the house that you’re concerned about?” Nash said.
He said it is common for small cities to have one person as city manager and in another management position. Cost is also a factor.
“How are you going to pay for it? It sounds like you have a hard enough problem meeting your medical and you want to hire another person and the overhead with that?” Nash said.
Bivens said she simply wanted to look into splitting the roles during the budget process to see if it was an option.
“If you look at it, you’ve got five board members on one side tugging at him every day, you got five on the other side tugging at him every day,” Tim Brewster, councilman, said. “I don’t see how he stops from going crazy.”
Brewster questioned whether Ross was able to get all aspects of his job done.
“I would love to focus on the job, rather than the drama of certain elected officials,” Ross said. “I invested over 100 hours in trying to establish a relationship with council member Brewster and council member Bivens. That time, it’s obvious, was wasted time. I can tell you I haven’t had a meeting with council member Brewster in three weeks. … Council member Bivens insisted that I stop meeting with her. I had a scheduled, repeating appointment with her every Friday. She cancelled that meeting and said I was to no longer communicate with her other than in email.”
Nash said there are “perceptions” by some residents that there are “conflicts between several board members and the city manager.”
“If there’s contention, it’s not good for the city, and it doesn’t allow a smooth running of the city council. It’s not productive,” Nash said.
Bivens said she had issues with Ross in the past, but they are now resolved.
“The services we get, what the city provides, there has been no drop in services,” Loudon Mayor Jeff Harris said. “I would be glad to give any department head an opportunity, if there’s some sort of drop in services that they feel like they can’t get from the city manager because he’s working on utility stuff. He balances it. … He does both jobs extremely, extremely well, and we’re very fortunate to have him in our city.”
Loudon treasurer and city recorder Nicole Curtis, Loudon Police Chief James “Bear” Webb, Loudon Fire Chief Mike Brubaker, Loudon Parks and Recreation Department Director Mark Harrell and Ellis Scruggs, Loudon public works director, all supported Ross keeping both positions.
“Again, I don’t want to turn it to that because that was not what it was about to start with. Let’s not misunderstand that,” Bivens said. “... I think this city is growing and I think it’s time that we had a full-time city manager if we can afford it. I just wanted us to talk about the cost, is it something that we could afford in our budget.”