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City officials get raises

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By Pat Hibbs

The Williston City Council voted at its meeting last week to award both the city manager and the city clerk 2 percent merit increases. Each has already been awarded the standard 3 percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) afforded to every city employee.

Council president Debra Jones presented her synthesis of the performance evaluations of each of the charter officers. Based on the overall scores, the recommendations were that City Clerk Barbara Henson receive a 4 percent merit increase, and that City Manager Jim Coleman be granted a 3.5 percent merit increase.

Councilman Cal Byrd asked about the maximum merit increase allowed for other city employees, and was told that it was capped at 2 percent (in addition to the three percent COLA). Byrd moved, and the council agreed, to give both Henson and Coleman the standard 2 percent merit increase.

The discussion of the evaluations was not without rancor. Jones has long contended that Coleman is not in the office enough to handle the complaints of ordinary citizens. Councilman Jerry Robinson restated his objection to Clerk Henson?s flex time, which sometimes makes her unavailable to the public and to staff.

Jones also again objected to the fact that Coleman has not moved to Williston and does not attend city events. Robinson countered that perhaps Coleman?s distance from the city was a ?blessing in disguise,? in that he is acquainted with people in the region and the state who might not otherwise be known to the government of a small city. He said as well that Coleman is not connected to ?the ol? boy network? that in the past has possibly hindered the city from acquiring competitive bids for projects in Williston.

The council honored local K-Country 93.7 host Lewis Stokes, a Williston native who?s been an informal ambassador for the city for many years. His parents live in the Williston area, and Stokes appeared recently in the Independence Day parade and at the Levy County Fair.

The council approved two referenda for the next city election: one grants the council the discretion to grant ad valorem tax exemptions for new and expanding businesses. The other would increase the terms of city councilors and the mayor to three years from the current two-year tenure. The measures were scheduled for the ballot last March, but the election was cancelled because none of the three existing councilors were challenged.

In airport matters, the recommendations of the Airport Committee for renewals of existing leases were accepted. Carol Bibby?s application to open a restaurant, The Piper Kub Caf?near the airport was also approved.

Council discussed, but made no decision on, a proposal from ARNCO construction to build three executive hangars at the airport. Each of two 50? by 50? hangars are priced at $135,000, and an 80? x 80? building at $345,600.

Members did agree to mandate earth tones for exterior paint on all buildings at the airport.

Councilman Steve Holcomb told the gathering that the Johnny T. Henry Celebration Park (at the intersection of Northwest First Avenue and Northwest Fourth Street) will be officially dedicated sometime in December. He said that organizers were hoping for a ceremony on Dec. 8, but that no final arrangements had been decided upon.

The next City Council meeting will be held on Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. in the City Council chambers. The agenda is available online at the city?s Web site (www.willistonfl.com) or in hardcopy at City Hall on the Friday before the council meeting. Interested citizens are encouraged to attend all city meetings.