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McDougal cuts overtime; budget reduces legal fees, keeps request for assistants

Port Arthur City Manager Brian McDougal presented a slightly whittled down budget to City Council Tuesday that included cuts in overtime spending and outside legal fees, while defending a request for two assistants to help with a myriad of city problems.

McDougal first introduced the $129 million budget last week, and this week shaved $236,000 off in police department overtime, and another $70,000 for outside legal fees.

Police Chief Mark Blanton explained the need for overtime is mainly due to a lack of employees, especially those in field operations and support.

The department particularly has difficulty keeping dispatchers, he said.

“As quick as we hire them, they leave,” Blanton said.

At one time the department was down 14 people in patrol, Blanton said.

“The largest generator of overtime is missing persons,” he said

Recently, the department has had three employees return to the job after extended leaves, leading Blanton to calculate the needed overtime may not be as great as originally anticipated.

Overtime funding would be reduced back to last year’s figure of $644,000.

McDougal said City Attorney Val Tizeno indicated her department did not anticipate as much of a need for outside legal assistance as originally thought, allowing the city to dial that figure back from $120,000 to $50,000.

At last week’s budget workshop, McDougal made a case for hiring two assistant city managers. One of the positions has been in the budget, but unfunded. The second position would be totally new.

McDougal said the two positions were part of a recommendation in the Mercer Report, a performance review of the city delivered in 2012.

It has been three years since Port Arthur’s city manager had an assistant.

At the request of District 1 Councilman Raymond Scott. Jr., McDougal supplied a copy of a portion of the Mercer Report Tuesday.

The report detailed how the two city manager positions in existence three years could better be utilized.

At Tuesday’s meeting Scott said he did not believe the report was a recommendation for the city to fund the assistant city manager positions

“I am telling you this information does not give you the recommendation to get a new city manager,” Scott said. “I do not interpret it to say you can have an assistant city manager. We have not had an assistant city manager for three years.

Scott said when McDougal showed him a need for an assistant city manager, he would look over it.

Since starting as the city’s manager on Jan. 19, McDougal said he has been extremely busy trying to solve city problems, and needs more help to do so.

“We’ve had one before (an assistant) and I think we need one again. I’ve got a lot of work to do to start bringing in revenue.”

During the public hearing portion of Tuesday’s meeting concerning the budget, Port Arthur resident Warren Field came to McDougal’s defense.

Field praised the work of McDougal, and Interim Finance Director Jerry Dale.

“I can gauge what people feel about our new city manager and Jerry — they love them,” Field said. “We need to give this person (McDougal) a chance to hire the people he needs.”

Field said since the city commissioned the Mercer Report, only a small fraction of the recommendations had been implemented.

“We paid a lot of money for that report; all he have to do is follow that Mercer Report,” Field said.

E-mail: sherry.koonce@panews.com

Twitter: skooncePANews