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Jeannette examines hiring city manager

| Monday, March 10, 2014, 11:21 p.m.

The city of Jeannette will consider establishing the position of city manager to replace the post of city clerk.

Mayor Richard Jacobelli on Monday proposed an ordinance for council to consider that would allow the city to hire a professional manager, and the state is willing to help council in the hiring process, said Mike Foreman, a local government specialist with the Department of Community and Economic Development.

City Clerk Mike Minyon Jr. currently holds the job but a city manager would require a college degree in a specific area such as public administration, municipal finance or urban planning.

The question is whether councilmen Bill Bedont, Mark Clark, Mark Levander and Gabriel Homan are willing to go along with Jacobelli's proposal.

Council in the past has been reluctant to follow any of the recommendations from Delta Development and the Civic Research Alliance, which studied the city's finances and manpower needs. It has balked at cutting the size of the police department, although it is studying whether to switch from a paid fire department to an all-volunteer force. It refused to subcontract any municipal services such as garbage collection as the consultants recommended.

When he campaigned for mayor last year, Jacobelli said he wanted a professional overseeing the day-to-day management of Jeannette. Some cities and boroughs in Pennsylvania still employ city clerks, but in 2011, the Legislature amended the Third Class City Code allowing municipalities to create the post of city manager or administrator. The new measure allows city councils to consider an applicant's professional experience, education and qualifications. The manager would be answerable to council, manage each city department, negotiate labor contracts, prepare an annual budget and make recommendations about hiring and firing to council, according to the code.

Foreman said his department could help the city advertise for the job, prepare interview questions for candidates, help council evaluate the applicants and how to check a candidate's references.

Foreman said the process should be “transparent, open and fair.”

“Anybody can apply, existing or non-existing employees,” he added.

Councilman Mark Levander questioned whether the city, given its financial problems, could afford a professional manager. Minyon earns $54,700 plus benefits. Foreman said that should be the starting point in negotiations.

“Start where you're at now and go from there,” Foreman said.

Salaries for city managers can range from as low as $60,000 to as high as $135,000, according to the Association for Pennsylvania Municipal Management. For example, Gettysburg in Adams County, with a population of 7,500, is planning to hire a manager and is advertising a salary range of $75,000 to $82,000, according to job postings with the association.

Jeannette, with the state's help, is trying to right its financial ship after several years of budget deficits and inability to make its mandatory contributions to the police pension fund, which nearly forced the state to declare the city a financially distressed municipality, making it subject to state oversight.

Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or at rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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