Commission still at odds over fundamental issues
If may be a new commission, but a familiar wedge is developing over the compensation of employees and the role of government.
Though elements of the rift are scattered across most of what the commission does, the positions were front and center at Monday’s committee meetings. At one point, some commissioners seemed to be advancing the notion that affordable golf is a right that should not only be enjoyed by everyone, but should be protected by the commission as well.
That position came during discussions surrounding the lease agreement that would allow Virginia Beach Golf Management to operate the Municipal Golf Course.
The agreement would pay the county $101,694 over the course of the lease, providing the course makes less than $650,000 a year. If it makes more, the county would receive a percentage of the gross revenue.
Despite the fact that Commissioner Corey Johnson wanted to postpone the decision until a recreation director was hired, Committee Chairman Wayne Guilfoyle pushed it forward, arguing that the longer they waited, the more likely the would be to lose the opportunity with Virginia Beach Golf Management, a company generally regarded as a good fit for the privatization of the golf course.
Commissioner Lockett, however, displayed concern over the rates.
“What is in the contract that is going to determine what kind of rates they’re going to charge members of that club?” he asked. “Are there any restrictions or limitations to how much they can charge, because we don’t have people that are out at the Patch that can play Augusta National.”
He said that a conversation with a recreation director gave him some insight as to what should be included in a contract, and one of the main things was keeping the rates a commission decision.
“I have a major concern that those people who are out there who might be on a fixed income and love to play golf have that right,” he said. “I think if we’re going to enter into a contract, we should make sure that the opportunity is provided.”
Commissioner Donnie Smith challenged Deputy Administrator Bill Shanahan with a line of questioning emphasizing the point that the company they wanted to bring in was a private company that wanted to make money, something that might be at cross purposes with the idea that golf should be priced to ensure everyone has a chance to play.
Guilfoyle voiced a similar opinion.
“We want the clubhouse and the fairways and the greens to be perfect, like Augusta National,” he said. “With that comes cost, which has got to be passed on. If we keep it in-house, the first year is going to cost the city out of our general fund, which was not budgeted, $405,000. Or we can save the $225,000 with this golf course management agreement.”
After that, he chided his fellow commissioners to keep focused on budget issues.
“This year alone we’re going to have some trials and tribulations when it comes to finances,” he said. “During the interview process, we’re asking applicants [for the division director jobs] if they’re willing to make the hard decision. These are the decisions that we have to be willing to make if we want to do our job well.”
Those hard decisions came to the forefront later in the meetings, when Administrator Fred Russell went line by line through the budget items not approved in the adopted budget.
In discussions over the proposed $750 across the board cost of living adjustment, Commissioner Alvin Mason and others decided to re-voice their opposition to the pay increases given by Russell in 2011.
“I guess the issue I have as far as per employee — there are several employees that have seen upwards of $18,000 plus the bit that we gave last year, plus now $750,” he said. “I’m not opposed to our employees receiving additional monies, but out of the leadership, because most of those individuals were in leadership positions, I would hope that perhaps as leaders they might say, ‘Not me. Not this time.’”
He said for these people to turn down the $750 would show “real leadership.”
Commissioner Bill Fennoy agreed that the raises were a good idea for those on the lower end of the pay spectrum and said that he didn’t want to punish them by opposing increases for those on the other side of the spectrum. That didn’t mean he was happy about it, though.
“I would hope that maybe you could come up with a plan where the most in need gets it and those who got there’s last year or whenever would be excluded this time,” he said.
Commissioner Marion Williams, who has a long history of involving himself with salary disputes, advocated a long look at how people are paid.
“I want to make sure before we pass anything that we sit down and talk about who gets what, because some people don’t need anymore.”
Russell, however, advised against making pay decisions anything but strictly management decisions.
“I think we all add our own unique skills and talents to the jobs that get done,” he said. “Some of us get paid to work with our backs, some of us get paid to work with our heads, and to adequately pay people for what they do should be the goal of this commission as we move forward.” You Might Also Like: