Councilman Channce Condit’s attempt to have the city end a contractual working relationship with Steve Hallam, the city’s Economic Development & Redevelopment manager stalled Monday evening.
Condit pulled the consent calendar item relating to extending Hallam’s contract. He started out asking why the position wasn’t frozen like other positions as the city plays a wait-and-see game with the budget revenue numbers in August. City Manager Tom Westbrook explained that Hallam’s position isn’t being treated the same because his work is funded out of redevelopment proceeds and not the General Fund.
Condit said while he has “enjoyed working with Mr. Hallam – I think he’s a great guy – but I so think we need to correct a precedent that we’ve set in the past of hiring part-time consultants. This has nothing to do with Mr. Hallam personally.”
Vice Mayor Linda Ryno, who was running the meeting in Mayor Chris Vierra’s absence, asked how Condit wanted to “remedy that.”
“You want to hire a full-time staff?” Ryno asked Condit. While saying past council discussions leaned toward hiring a full-time person for economic development he also said expected budget shortfalls means “we probably cannot make that judgment call right at that moment.”
Ryno reminded Condit that Hallam’s contract “has no impact on General Fund at all,” which is where the budget shortages are expected to occur.
“I completely understand that but again I don’t think we should have a part-time consultant in this aspect,” said Condit. “That’s just where I’m standing with my position.”
Councilman Bret Durossette bucked Condit’s suggestion, saying the contract is a cost-effective way to promote economic development.
“This is not General Fund money,” said Durossette. “We’re in these dire times. I mean everything’s getting shut down right now. And again if there’s something he (Hallam) can bring to the table … that’s going to help the city of Ceres financially, then yes, it’s a no-brainer.”
Durossette asked Westbrook if Hallam’s contract was something the city needed.
“It’s critically important,” said Westbrook, “the reason being is in transitioning to the new position as city manager my old position is not filled so I don’t have time to spend. Steve is a valuable resource to me. When I get inquiries from folks that need a response right away I can rely on Steve to get the answers I need to them in an expeditious manner. So Steve is critical to the success of the city and having him in that position I think is a benefit to us all.”
Westbrook said filling that position as a full-time staffer would cost at least $150,000 annually. Hallam’s contract is capped at $85,000 for the year; it’s based on an hourly pay rate of $85 at an average of 20 hours per week.
Ryno said in her unique experience of having worked at City Hall for 30 years she believes Hallam has accomplished in five years “more for us economically” than the numerous full-time economic development managers for whom she worked.
Vierra and Councilman Mike Kline were absent from Monday’s meeting on Zoom. Seeing that the contract needed at least three affirmative votes for approval and that Condit was determined to vote against it, Durossette motioned to delay the contract vote until a full council can vote. Condit went along to table it.