Loudon mulls HR director

Jonathan Herrmann news-herald.net

Loudon City Council during a regularly scheduled workshop Monday night heard from Joe Ford, city attorney, and John Canada on the details of a possible part-time position for a human resources director. Canada, who has been contracted by the city for HR services since late February, would fill the part-time position if approved by both the Loudon Utilities Board and council at next week’s respective meetings.
“It’s a situation where both the LUB and the city were interested in some professional HR consultation and help,” Ford said during a follow-up interview Tuesday morning. “He was hired as an independent professional advisor. Over time the working relationship has been very good with him, and there was a mutual interest in him potentially working part time for the city and the utilities.”
Compensation for Canada in a part-time role would be $52 per hour at 20 hours per week with health insurance coverage from the city at a cost of $1,800 per month, Ford said during the meeting.
The total cost of compensation would be about $5,960 per month or $75,680 a year, including health insurance benefits. LUB would pay 75 percent of the compensation with 25 percent paid by the city.
While not all part-time city or LUB employees have benefits, it is not unusual, Ford said.
“It’s not part of the plan, the self-funded plan that the city and utilities participate in, but there are part-time people that are part of the plan is the way the plan is written up,” he said. “For instance, city councilmen and utility board members get health insurance as part of their job and they are certainly part time.”
Jeff Harris, Loudon City councilman, believes the part-time position would actually be a money saver for the city.
“Really, right now we would be saving money,” Harris said. “We are paying him more right now as a consultant.”
Canada was initially brought on to review personnel, staffing and job practices for the city and LUB with the city paying 25 percent of the cost up to $5,000. But after the death of City Manager Lynn Mills, Canada has been involved in the search for a new city manager.
So far the city has been billed by LUB for only “a little over $100,” Stephanie Putkonen, city recorder, said. That total was for February’s services, and because the city has not been billed for March or April services at this time, Putkonen does not know how much is currently owed for Canada’s services.
“After Lynn’s passing, that changed things,” Harris said. “He had to be there a lot more. He is working a lot more hours now than we planned.”
Canada’s duties as a part-time HR director would include policy updates, review and update of job descriptions and examination of organizational structure.
“Initially, I would see the need for taking a look at the organization from an organizational structure standpoint,” Canada said during the meeting. “All of this folded in with communication needs. You’ve got policy manuals that are very much out of date. Not that they’re bad, but those things always need to be refreshed. Bringing some things up to speed would be the initial need going in where time would be spent.”
While there is no definite outline for how long Canada would be on staff, he would, like all city employees, work at the will of council, Ford said.
“I think it’s something that, especially in the absence here of a city manager, I think once we determine and hire a city manager then they can make the determination of whether its needed that much more or not, but in the interim I think it’s needed,” Harris said.
Harris stressed that he would like the city to take advantage of services provided by the University of Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service when updating policies, rather than relying solely on Canada.
Canada’s initial familiarity with Loudon was formed during his work as an HR professional at Viskase in Loudon, Ford said.
“We were looking to hire an HR professional to do a review of systems and make suggestions to us on how to improve,” Ford said. “His name came up from three or four different people. We talked to him and he was retired, recently retired, and had the time and was willing to attempt to help.”