Mayor: HU not needed at city's staff meeting

By Staff
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
For the past several years, the city of Hartselle's weekly staff meetings have included a representative from Hartselle Utilities. That all changed this week, when Mayor Clif Knight retracted the standing invitation for HU to attend the meetings.
The move is just the latest chapter in the two group's increasingly strained relationship, brought to a head recently by the termination of City Administrator Ferrell Vest's contract and, one week later, his hiring by HU.
In a letter sent to HU General Manager George Adair, Knight said, "it is no longer desired that you or your designated representative attend our weekly staff meetings."
Knight said communication between the two bodies would be better served through Councilman Frank Jones, who is also a member of the HU board of directors.
HU is not a city department and operates independently of the city council and mayor. However, the council appoints members of HU's board and in the past several years, has opted to name one of its own to the body.
Knight said Jones' presence would "strengthen" the lines of communications between HU and the city. He also said he thought the city's department heads and their counterparts from HU should work closer together.
"I am encouraging our department heads to continue to communicate and work with the HU department heads on projects of mutual interest," Knight said.
None of these changes are sitting well with HU Board Chairman Buzz Howell, who volleyed back his own letter to Knight.
"Allow me to register my extreme disappointment over your action," Howell said in a letter sent to the mayor. "I believe this move on your part will be counter-productive to the efforts of the city and the utilities to operate and improve various departments to the benefit of the citizens of Hartselle."
Howell said the presence of a council member on the HU board would not provide sufficient communication between the two.
"You have indicated that the council member who now serves on Hartselle Utilities' Board can, by his presence on both bodies, take the place of the weekly staff meeting exchanges," Howell said. "Surely you realize that such an approach is neither reasonable nor feasible."
Howell's letter was signed by himself and HU board members Michael Gunter and Jimmy Moore. Jones and HU member Claude Morris did not sign the letter sent to the mayor.
Howell also had concerns over the mayor's plan to for the two group's department heads to work directly together. Howell said such a system would bypass "proper protocol."
"Although we would both agree that it is necessary on many occasions for the city and utility department heads to work directly together on accomplishing work, it is also critical that management be consulted regarding significant project requirement," Howell said.
The city council meets again on Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. at City Hall. Knight did not indicate if the matter would be discussed at that meeting.

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