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Council votes to expedite EDC info

November 9, 2011

The Big Spring City Council approved first reading of a resolution Tuesday evening, streamlining the way the Big Spring Economic Development Corporation will deliver its quarterly reports to the governing body.
Under the existing requirements, the Big Spring EDC Board of Directors are required to meet with the city council during their quarterly meetings, according to EDC Director Terry Wegman.
However, the proposed changes — which will have to pass final reading during the council’s next meeting — set for Dec. 13 — would allow the quarterly meetings to take place with just the council and Wegman present, according to city officials.
“During our quarterly meetings with the council, the majority of the presentations are made by me,” Wegman said. “So, there’s really no reason for the board members to be required to be there. This change will allow us to be more flexible and move these items along to the city council more quickly, and with a lot of these things, time is a critical element.”
City Attorney Linda Sjogren agreed, saying the former process — which involved the performance agreements having to first be entered into the EDC board of director’s meeting minutes before going to the council — a process that could take 30 to 45 days — wasn’t as expeditious as those involved would like.
“This will simply allow the EDC director to bring the performance agreements to you as they have been approved by the EDC (board of directors) ... everything else in the resolution is the same as what we’ve been doing,” Sjogren told the council.
“We talked a couple of meetings ago and there was kind of a mutual agreement between the EDC and the city council this would be a faster process,” Mayor Tommy Duncan said.
One local citizen asked to speak to the resolution, as Joyce Crooker — a former member of the EDC board of directors — addressed the council, imploring them not to “micromanage” its efforts at economic development.
“It’s true, you are the authorizing unit. You approve all the programs in their final stages,” Crooker said. “I don’t think the council should micromanage the board, and I’m not saying that you are. I’m saying it looks that way when you would have to come and possibly delay a prospect, and there is always someone out there, another agency waiting for it. Time is a big factor.”
Also during the meeting, the council approved first reading of a resolution to pay back wages and damages to current and former city employees, part of a lawsuit brought against the municipality concerning errors in overtime calculations.
“This all stems from an error Mr. (John) Medina discovered shortly after he took over as human resources director in the way we were calculating the overtime, the regular rate for overtime, in the fall of 2009,” Sjogren told the council. “The point of this resolution is to make the same settlement terms, the same benefits available to all employees, even if they didn’t participate in the lawsuit. We wanted to be equitable to everyone.”
According to municipal records, city officials became aware the method used to calculate its regular rate for overtime was possibly incorrect, which soon spawned a lawsuit filed by employees, including a lawsuit filed by a group of firefighters employed by the Big Spring Fire Department.
Municipal records indicate the lawsuit culminated in a mediated settlement agreement between the parties whereby the “city agreed to pay to each plaintiff the greater of two different methods of calculating the back pay owed for back wages for specific periods of time in consideration for a release of any claims to back wages.
“From the beginning, when we first found the error, the council told me and the city manager has told me we were going to pay everyone what they are owed,” Sjogren said. “We don’t want for anyone to be shorted. That’s been our position all along.”
Sjogren said in some cases the miscalculations could result in employees owing the city; however, municipal officials have no intentions of attempting to recover those funds.

Contact Staff Writer Thomas Jenkins at 263-7331 ext. 232 or by e-mail at citydesk@bigspringherald.com

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