By MATT KOESTERS
Remember when Clarksville began its search for a town manager? Well, forget it.
Less than two months after approving the recommendations of a committee tasked with exploring potential changes to the town’s structure of government, the Clarksville Town Council put an end to the search for a town manager.
“I think we can [manage the town] ourselves,” said Councilman Paul Kraft, who made the motion to disband the town manager search committee and cease all efforts to hire a town manager. “I don’t see a necessity for it.”
The vote to put an end to the search to hire a town manager was 4-2, with Councilman John Gilkey absent from the meeting. Kraft was joined by fellow Democrats Bob Popp, Don Tetley and Council President Bob Polston in voting to end the search and return to the status quo. Republicans Paul Fetter and Tim Hauber opposed.
The council voted unanimously at an Aug. 19 meeting to accept the recommendations of the Clarksville City-Town Evaluation Committee, which was formed to explore the benefits of altering the town’s government structure. Among the recommendations was the creation of the town manager position and the formation of a search committee to identify the person for the role.
The swift about-face on the town manager position was the unexpected cost of funding it, Kraft said.
“There doesn’t seem to be anybody that knows exactly what it would cost,” Kraft said. “I guess it would be dependent upon what person you got to do this job. Also, they didn’t include benefits, which can add up to quite a sum themselves. We’d have to have a secretary, a car and fuel — it goes on and on. I haven’t seen anything to tell me exactly what that would cost per year.”
Popp joined Kraft in speaking out against the town manager position prior to the vote, stating that the town manager’s salary would come out of the town’s general fund and likely the funds being collected for wastewater utility, for which rates recently significantly increased. Several citizens had come to the meeting to protest the increased rates, which were recently implemented.
But the decision to eliminate the town manager position wasn’t about money, said Fetter, who voted against eliminating it.
“It doesn’t have to do with money and spending, because it’s never been watched before,” Fetter said. “It has to do with control. When they read the [Indiana statute], and the [statute] said that the town manager would have the ability to hire, and fire and transfer employees as necessary to the benefit of the town, eyes got wide. People became nervous, and this caused a problem for some of these members of this council.”
Fetter argued that a good town manager would pay for the position by implementing cost-saving policies and procedures, by reviewing contracts to ensure good prices and inspecting departments to eliminate waste. Fetter said a part-time council is unable to do the things a full-time town manager could do.
“Is there anybody that’s checking?” Fetter asked. “It’s something that our council members aren’t doing. I’m guilty of that, Tim [Hauber]’s guilty of that, Paul Kraft, Don Tetley, Bob Popp, they’re all guilty of that because they don’t have the time to look into those details, to make sure that the money’s spent right and that money is saved.”
The elimination of the town manager position had support in the gallery of the council chambers. After resident Dave Disponett listed several of the town’s successes without a town manager, he implored the council to put an end to the search.
“I think it’s time to put this town manager thing to bed,” Disponett said.
After the vote was taken, the crowd gave the council a round of applause.