Tryon, Columbus freeze planner position to save funds

Published 8:03 pm Thursday, September 2, 2010

Both the towns of Columbus and Tryon have decided to save money and not fill a vacant planner position that was shared last year.
Former joint planner Melanie Sand resigned in July and Tryon and Columbus have each decided to hold off on rehiring in an attempt to save money. Sand worked for Tryon two days per week and for Columbus three days per week.
Tryon Town Manager Justin Hembree says the duties will be split between fire chief Joey Davis and himself for at least six months.
Davis will be officially appointed as the towns zoning administrator during Tryon Town Councils meeting this month. Davis already does building fire inspections in town and Hembree says he will also do day-to-day permitting and enforcement of Tryons ordinances. Hembree says he will handle major issues.
Davis will begin taking code enforcement classes through the N.C. Institute of Government, although no certifications are required. Hembree already holds a degree in planning. The transition could work long term for Tryon as Hembree says the town can now be more responsive to requests because Sand only worked for the town two days per week.
Columbus has made the same short term decision not to rehire a planner. Newly hired town manager Jonathan Kanipe has assumed planning duties as well.
Kanipe says the relationship between Tryon and Columbus worked well and a future joint planner could be considered if needed. Kanipe says he is handling planning issues for at least another month.
The savings for both towns could be substantial if the position is completely taken out of the budgets. Columbus handled the expenses for Sand and was reimbursed a portion from Tryon.
The total planning department budget for Columbus was $39,825, including salary, benefits and retirement, professional services, supplies, telephone, advertising and postage, dues and subscriptions and staff development.
Tryon reimbursed Columbus $9,152 for Sands salary, but Hembree says the savings to the town is closer to $20,000, including supplies, certifications and dues Tryon also paid for the position.