Searcy officials have decided to make city planner a full-time paid city position after it was suggested by Mayor Kyle Osborne based on city growth.

The Searcy City Council voted Tuesday night to create the position. Jim von Tungeln currently serves as the city planner as a part-time independent contractor, being paid $3,000 a month. City officials have not decided what they will pay for the full-time position.

Council member David Morris suggested that von Tungeln be consulted about the job as a valuable resource.

“Obviously, a full-time person would do a lot more than he does but for giving us some type of job analysis or job audit or something of that nature, give us a description of what he does, what his duties are, I think it would help us all moving forward with this full-time position,” Morris said. “Like I said the other night [Thursday], I am in favor of this full-time position. I think it would be valuable certainly ... I think we need to call on him to be able to garner basically what the main functions are and take advantage of that.”

Osborne said he met with von Tungeln a couple of weeks ago and he was ready to help the city in any way it needed. Osborne said von Tungen would assist whomever the city hires for the position.

Councilman Raney said the city could discuss with von Tungeln how much or how little he wanted to do working with the new city planner. “I think it would be great it he stayed on for a little while,” Raney said.

In an article von Tungeln, a staff planning consultant and member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, wrote in the December issue of the Arkansas Municipal League’s “City and Town” magazine, he said that planning “must be bold, and boldness requires commitment.”

Morris said in coming up with the city’s job description for a full-time position it also may be wise to look at some other “cities that are very progressive” to see the descriptions for their city planners. “Rather than for us trying to reinvent a wheel, draw on the cities that are very progressive and doing well and have had this full-time position for a good while.”

Council member Rodger Cargile mentioned that the “City and Town” magazine, which the city gets every month, has a “help-wanted section with the job descriptions crafted into them.” City Attorney Buck Gibson added that these type of city job descriptions also are “available readily online.”

Raney, who made the motion that the council create the position, said the city could follow that up the council’s decision by working on the job description and City Clerk-Treasurer Jerry Morris and Osborne could then start looking at salary ranges. Raney said he believed that the Arkansas Municipal League published those type of salaries for all the cities in Arkansas that report them.

Osborne told The Daily Citizen on Wednesday that the council members still have “to decide how much they want the salary to be and where that money comes from. What we are paying now is half of that, so we only have to come up with half of it, you might say.”

In light of the decision, Osborne also was asked about possible pay increases for police officers, firefighters and other positions. He said there will probably be a special budget meeting coming up in the next week or so. “Jerry and I will have the recommended employee pay raises in there. Probably in a week we will be ready.” Osborne said all cities need to have their 2022 budgets approved by Jan. 30.

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