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Valley News Dispatch

Arnold Council wants more of its power restored, diminished power for city manager

| Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, 7:54 p.m.

Arnold Council has taken the first step to reinstituting the position of city clerk.

Mayor Karen Peconi has initiated the return to that position after the city had created the position of city administrator.

However, it remains to be seen if the rest of council will support the move.

The creation of a city administrator was done in 2014 after the state changed the Third Class City Code to allow it.

At that time, council members said the change was recommended by Delta Development Group, a consulting firm that assisted the city in straightening out its finances and avoiding Act 47, the state's Financially Distressed Municipalities program.

One of Delta's suggestions was to streamline city hall by hiring a manager who would have day-to-day oversight of operations and finances.

One big change from going to a city clerk to a city administrator is that an administrator has the authority to hire and fire employees while a city clerk does not, Solicitor David Regoli said.

Peconi had reservations when council made that move, and apparently that hasn't changed.

“It cost the city a lot of money and gave one person a lot of power that should have stayed with council,” Peconi said in making the proposal Tuesday.

She wants to shift back to a city clerk to give more control to the council members who are the directors of each city department.

She said going back to a city clerk would save about $10,000, saying that position would be at a lower salary.

When asked about what would happen to the current administrator, George Hayfield, Peconi said, Hayfield “will be encouraged to apply for it.”

Hayfield, who was present, made no comment on the proposal.

Councilman Phil McKinley is one member who stated his opposition to eliminating the city administrator's post, citing information from the state's Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).

“DCED told us that only about 4 percent of Third Class Cities have city clerks because they are so inefficient,” McKinley said.

He said the inefficiency comes from having a city clerk having to consult with department directors before acting on something. He said that could cause delays, particularly if the director in question can't be located right away.

Regoli said because the administrator's position was created by an ordinance, it would have to be eliminated by an ordinance.

Council approved creating an ordinance to do that, which was approved by a 4-1 vote with McKinley voting no.

He did vote to authorize advertisement of the ordinance, which would come up for final approval after its second reading before council.

Tom Yerace is a freelance writer.

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