Monday, April 23, 2007

TOP STORY >>Ex-engineer back with city

IN SHORT: Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim hires Jay Whisker to fill position as city administrator.

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville’s former city engineer, Jay Whisker, was introduced at Thursday’s city council meeting as the new city administrator.

Jacksonville has been without a city administrator since mid-2004 when Murice Green retired.

In making the announcement, the mayor said he had found it easier to do the job of the administrator than to try to explain or train someone for the position. “It was hard to find someone who knew about all aspects of our city and able to work with the public. I feel Jay has the insight from his six years as city engineer to fill the position,” the mayor said.

Whisker had resigned in late 2006, taking a job with a Little Rock engineering firm. “When you are hired as a city engineer you just don’t have the opportunity to go up or move,” he said at the time. The Little Rock job offered him a chance for advancement.

In accepting the new job, Whisker said that he’s missed the city and he’ll enjoy not making that commute to Little Rock. He starts Monday and will also oversee the engineering department until a new city engineer is hired. Whisker had been serving as a consultant for the city in the engineering area since his departure.

As city engineer, Whisker’s salary was $63,592, as city administrator he’ll be making $66,000. Top salary for the engineer position is $67,207, and $71,080 for the administrator’s job.

The city is also trying to fill the human-resources director position, which has been vacant for almost a year when Charlie Brown retired. “We’ve interviewed about eight to 10 people for the position, but just haven’t found the right fit yet,” the mayor said.

In other council business:

- Aldermen condemned nine properties. The owners have 60 days to either bring the properties up to code or tear them down and remove them.

After 60 days the city will pay to have the structures torn down and place a lien against the properties.
No one spoke for or against the condemnation at a public hearing right before the aldermen passed the ordinance condemning the properties.

According to the ordinance, the property owners failed to repair their respective properties, despite repeated notices and demands, and that the structures present public health and safety hazards.

Three of the properties are burned-out homes. The condemned properties include 104 Cross St., owned by Leon and Jennifer Brooks; 105 Pike Ave., owned by James L. Mixon; 128 Central Ave., owned by Deerco, Inc.; 130 Joiner Ave., owned by Glenn and Robert Davidson; 141 North Ave., owned by Marvin and Mavis Douglas; 184 Pike Ave., owned by Loria Parks; 206 Roosevelt Rd., owned by Agnes Jordan; 1116 Sorrells Dr., owned by Jimmie Miller; and 1504 Keaton St., owned by Dawn Querida House.

- In another public hearing no one spoke against the idea of a multi-purpose improvement district for the Legacy Center Development.

The Legacy Center is a commercial and residential development by the Dupree family and encompasses about 1,250 acres of land east and west of Hwy. 67/167 between the new I-440 exit and Redmond Road, commonly know as the bean field.
Aldermen approved the formation of the improvement district, which will give the developers options in financing streets, drainage, lights, sewer and water lines for the planned community.

An attorney for the project told the council that it was a great opportunity for Jacksonville.
“Since the property is inside the city limits, the city will eventually gain all the streets and all the improvements without the cost,” he said.

- The council also voted to spend $70,332 to build sidewalks along Redmond Road from the community center to Dupree Park.

- Aldermen also approved a resolution saying the city would provide 20 percent of the funding to upgrade traffic signals at the intersections of West Main, Marshall Road and T.P. White Drive. Federal funds will provide the other 80 percent of the $200,000 project.

- The council also waived competitive bidding to allow the police department to purchase video cameras for new patrol cars. The police wanted the same make and model of cameras currently be used in its units for constituency. The department will buy four cameras from Mobile Vision of New Jersey at a cost of $14,880.

- In his monthly report, Fire Chief John Vanderhoof told the council that his department responded to 108 rescue calls, 57 still alarms, 12 general alarms and 223 ambulance runs during March. There was no fire loss for the month.

- Public Works Director Jimmie Oakley, in his monthly report, said the animal shelter received 130 dogs and 79 cats during March. Two cats and 27 dogs were returned to their owners, while 38 cats and 58 dogs were adopted. Shelter officials euthanized 25 cats and 45 dogs during the month.

Two bite cases were reported during March, both involving pit bulls. One of the two dogs was declared vicious and was euthanized.

- In his monthly report, Police Chief Robert Baker said the police department responded to 2,424 complaint calls in March, down 10 percent from last year. Police made 358 adult arrests and 44 juvenile contacts in March.
Nearly $57,000 worth of items was reported stolen in March and $15,753 worth of items was recovered.