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By CHARLES RICHARDS
The Paris City Council went into executive session Monday evening to interview separately two of the three finalists for the vacant city manager position.
The council convened briefly in open session at 5:35 p.m. and went behind closed doors a couple of minutes later.
The council had announced it would interview two of its candidates Monday night, and would interview the third candidate at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The council indicated it probably would schedule an hour for each candidate.
The applicants all are now city managers — one in Texas and the others from other states.
Indications are the council was sufficiently impressed with the candidates’ resumes that it would offer a job to one of the three.
Present for the interviews was Chet Nolan, who supervised SGR’s candidate search.
The city manager search is near the end of a process that began a full year ago, after Kevin Carruth’s resignation on Jan. 1, 2011, after accepting a $140,000 buyout of his contract, which was to expire in August 2011.
Initially, the idea was to delay the hiring process — to accept applications so that when new city council members were elected in May 2011, the new council would be able to interview the top candidates and hire a new manager.
But when the council looked through the 70-plus people who applied directly to the city, they discovered that almost all were former city managers who were applying for every job opening up.
In November, the council decided to hire a search firm.
Strategic Government Resources (SGR) was told to bring in candidates now employed, preferably city managers from smaller cities, or assistant city managers from larger cities.
Mayor AJ Hashmi indicated he would expect each candidate to demonstrate that his current city had progressed under his or her guidance.
To avoid sensitive issues with each candidate’s current employer, the Paris City Council has withheld from publication the names of the applicants.
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By CHARLES RICHARDS
People at tonight’s meeting of the Paris City Council will get a preview of what Bywaters Park will look like with 150 new trees, new grass, and new lights – plus a large number of boulders cut to serve as seats.
Volunteers have offered to do the work, which Mayor AJ Hashmi estimated will cost about $50,000.
“We are going to try to do it without any contribution from the city,” he said.
He has asked for an estimate on what it will cost to install a sprinkler system at the park, he said.
“I emphasized that it is for the city, so please do not try to make a profit on it,” he said.
The item isn’t on the agenda, so Hashmi will open the council meeting by showing two or three computer slides during the Citizen Forum portion of the meeting.
Also, councilman John Wright will use the Citizen Forum part of the agenda to update the council on progress thus far on the mayor’s 11-person task force on substandard structures.
Interim city manager Gene Anderson will give a presentation on work that is being done to bring an electronic permitting process online. Anyone with computer access could go online and get a building permit rather than going to the city hall annex.
“It is not something that is going to happen very fast, but it’s on the way,” Hashmi said.
The mayor said there will also be a report at that time about some resolution to complaints that were raised by people with rental property at a meeting earlier this month concerning the city’s building permit process.
Fire chief Ronnie Grooms will give a report on the use of fire department vehicle to respond to first responder calls. The chief will also provide direction toward the possible purchase of a new rescue truck. The current truck has been out of service for the past eight months.
Grooms has also been asked for a report on fire department overtime, and the impact that adding additional firefighter personnel would have on overtime.
The city staff is recommending that the council approve the award of a bid to Four Thirteen, Inc., of Texarkana in the amount of $345,155 for 2011-2012 water and wastewater capital improvements.
The council last month voted to award the contract to B.Bray because it is a local company and its price was within 3 percent of the lowest bid.
But in executive session, city attorney Kent McIlyar told the council it would be illegal not to award the contract to the low bidder.
The council was told during that meeting that city councils in Houston and other cities have passed an ordinance to allow awarding a contract to a local company if its bid was within 3 percent or 5 percent, depending on the size of the contract.
Nothing pertaining to such an ordinance is on tonight’s agenda.
The only bidder for management of the city’s adult softball leagues was Steve Coker, who will pay the City of Paris 15 percent of all money collected through registration fees in the amount of $450 per team for a nine-game men’s league, $450 per team for an eight-game co-ed league, $550 per team for a 10-game industrial league, and $400 per team for an eight-game men’s league.
The council will consider an ordinance granting a one-year license to operate a taxicab business on the streets of Paris.
The council is expected to grant licenses to operate a taxicab license to Transportation Providers/Yellow Cab, to Transportation providers/City Cab, and to David Thompson dba Lone Star Cab.
Also, On Time Van Service is seeking a license to operate a shuttle service to transport passengers from a location within the city limits to a location either inside or outside the city limits using a Ford Econoline Van.
The council will pass proclamations declaring the month of February as:
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By CHARLES RICHARDS
When Mayor AJ Hashmi pushed last month for an annual commitment to replace the city’s deteriorating underground water and sewer lines, he suggested that the Paris Economic Development Corporation might be a source of part of the money.
If you think about it, he said, replacing the city’s infrastructure “IS economic development.”
At tonight’s meeting of the Paris City Council, the mayor will tout the advantages of a change from the PEDC’s 4A structure to a more flexible 4B structure.
It would require approval of city voters — an election that Hashmi would like to occur during the upcoming city elections on May 12.
Hashmi originally asked PEDC director Steve Gilbert to present a PowerPoint presentation on 4B, but decided to make the presentation himself after Gilbert told him the PEDC board was opposed to a move to 4B.
The mayor argues that a change wouldn’t force the PEDC to give up any of its funds. The PEDC would be in total charge of whether it chooses to help the city with infrastructure or other specific issues, he said.
Under either 4A or 4B, the PEDC is in charge of how it spends the money, but can designate money to a broader range of projects under 4B.
“4B allows rural cities to better compete with larger cities,” Hashmi says.
The current sales tax is at the maximum 8.25 percent, of which 6.25 percent goes to the state, 1.50 percent to the city, and 0.50 percent to the county. Of the city’s portion, 0.25 percent goes to the PEDC. The sales tax wouldn’t increase.
No matter what the designation, the PEDC will receive the same amount of money, but would have the authority to fund a wider range of projects, the mayor says.
In Texas, any city may have a 4B structure, and the state’s largest cities must be 4B rather than 4A. Most of the state’s smaller communities are 4A.
An economic development board under 4A has five board members; under 4B, a seven-member PEDC would be required, the mayor said. Either way, PEDC members are appointed by the city council.
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By CHARLES RICHARDS
Every year, there is a push by the Paris City Council for the city manager to come up with short-range and long-range plans for the city.
And the response from the city manager typically is that he either doesn’t have the expertise or the time to do that. Instead, he wants to hire a consultant, and the matter goes away for another year.
And although everyone wants to insist on long-range and short-range planning, it never happens.
Mayor AJ Hashmi will propose at tonight’s council meeting that the council create a new position of city planning director and put the planning in his hands.
“If you expect that the new city manager, whenever we hire him, will come and fix the city’s issues and will also develop a long-range and short-range plan, it is not going to happen,” Hashmi said.
“He will be so involved in what his other duties are, it will be years before he gets it done,” the mayor said.
Hashmi proposes hiring a certified planner with a master’s degree from an executive planning program. The salary would be approximately $50,000 a year, he said, and the person would answer directly to the city manager.
The only other person in the planning department would be a secretary, the mayor said. A secretary now working in the engineering department three days a week would be made a fulltime employee, he said.
The City Charter created the finance, police, fire, public works and authorized “such other departments as may be established by the council” by ordinance.
Hashmi said he would like to begin the position with the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, 2012, and include the salary in the budget that is adopted this summer, and accomplish it without increasing city staffing levels or terminating anyone.
Two lesser-paying positions in the city could be eliminated by attrition, he said, not filling a couple of positions in which employees resign or retire.
“If we began advertising for the position now, we could have someone hired (by the start of the new fiscal year),” the mayor said.
Hashmi said also that he would like to create a city planning board comprised of the city planner, the city engineer, a person from the city building permit staff, a member of the Paris Economic Development Board, the city attorney, and two citizen at-large members.
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By CHARLES RICHARDS
Members of the Paris City Council are expected tonight to narrow their search for a new city manager to two or three finalists.
Since Thursday afternoon, each councilman has had a brochure containing the resumes, cover letters and a search firm’s background checks on the 10 applicants that were considered the best of last week’s run-through of 34 applicants from 19 states.
Mayor AJ Hashmi said all 10 fit his personal criteria — currently employed and either managers from growing cities smaller than Paris or assistant managers of larger cities.
“I think all of us are very pleased,” Hashmi said. “I am confident that our next city manager will come from this group.”
The council will reach agreement tonight on two or three finalists and have their search firm bring them back for interviews as quickly as can be arranged – at a special meeting if necessary.
The council in November hired Keller-based Strategic Government Resources (SGR) to conduct a search after the council’s own months-long hunt attracted about 70 applicants, none of whom generated excitement among a majority of the council. Most of the applicants were former city managers in between jobs.
Chet Nolan, the SGR official handling the search, said the company’s preference is to conduct its own video interviews of the finalists and bring those back as the next step. Then, SGR would invite to Paris whomever the council wanted to interview personally.
“I’m not interested in the video interviews,” Hashmi said Sunday. He said the council will want the search firm to bring the two or three finalists directly to Paris for interviews that will determine who will be offered the job.
“We want to get this done,” the mayor said.
Hashmi wants the finalists to have done their homework on Paris and to be able to show that their cities have progressed steadily under their watch.
Identities of the applicants have not been disclosed, in order to protect their situations with their current employer.
Paris has been without a city manager since Kevin Carruth resigned on Jan. 1, 2011, after accepting a $140,000 buyout. He was hired in August 2007 and had a contract that was to have expired on Aug. 1, 2011.
Finance director Gene Anderson has been the interim manager since early 2011.
Carruth filed for and received a total of more than $10,000 in worker’s unemployment compensation over a six-month period in 2011. He was hired in December as city manager in Rockport, Texas. Formerly, he was a city manager at Daingerfield, Hillsboro and Brownwood and interim city manager at Prosper.
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