A deputy city manager is imminent for Carson City due to action taken Thursday in a 3-2 vote by the Board of Supervisors.
Supervisors Brad Bonkowski and Jim Shirk, the newest members, dissented in the decision to hire a deputy under City Manager Larry Werner at an annual salary of $125,000. With benefits, that would have a greater impact over time.
“The true cost, though, is $180,000; there’s no getting around that,” Werner said as he discussed the issue before the vote. He said the action would convert a budgeted but vacant spot for grant-writing and related duties to a deputy role in his office, helping city government function better.
Bonkowski asked Werner during discussion if city government savings would result, seeking assurance of a return on investment. Werner declined to make such a claim.
“I can’t assure that,” he said, but he did assert greater efficiencies and better services for citizens should result.
Supervisor Karen Abowd, who subsequently voted with Mayor Robert Crowell and Supervisor John McKenna to authorize the hiring, asked if the deputy’s grants-coordination role would save some money.
“In that respect, yes, there is a monetary savings,” Werner replied, recalling the coordinator had helped with federal grants in the past.
Shirk wanted a nationwide search for a deputy with an eye toward elevating the person chosen to city manager when Werner retires. Werner said he has set no date for retirement and won’t retire until he stops enjoying the job, and told Shirk people who want city manager jobs don’t want to stand in line. He said supervisors wouldn’t get what they want by that method.
“I disagree with that,” Shirk said.
Werner indicated after the board tally, when quizzed, that he likely would hire internally and perhaps within a couple of weeks.
Right after that action, supervisors took up an agenda item from Shirk on how to handle upcoming budget issues, prompting a lengthy discussion about whether to include department heads for supervisors’ questioning. Members of the public weighed in at different points.
“I was absolutely appalled by what I read in the agenda,” said Karl Neathammer, former justice of the peace pro tem. He urged that Shirk, as a new supervisor, wait until he had been through the budgeting process once before attempting changes or advancing something that smacked, in Neathammer’s view, of Shirk seeing things as “somewhat conspiratorial.”
When Neathammer said he was concerned about Shirk’s “tone and tenor,” the mayor reined him in and told him to stick to the issue.
Shirk defended his agenda item as a reform move. He said some citizens want it.
He said he wasn’t trying to micromanage city government, nor pit department heads against one another in “wheel of fortune” bidding among them, as some colleagues feared. He added it would be good to “have the privilege to talk to a department manager” during budget deliberations.
He added, however, that he would honor and respect supervisors’ views. In the end, no motion came on his suggestion.
In other action, the board authorized a move to do refunding bonds that Finance Director Nick Providenti said, with current low interest rates, could save close to $1 million. It also took the next step toward purchasing the Business Resource Innovation Center (BRIC) building downtown for $1.25 million.