05/19/04 — County manager gets four-year contract

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County manager gets four-year contract

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on May 19, 2004 2:05 PM

The Wayne County commissioners agreed Tuesday on a contract for County Manager Lee Smith, his first since taking the job two years ago.

The four-year deal does not change Smith's salary, currently $92,000, or his benefits, although it does call for Smith to receive any cost-of-living increase given other county employees.

Lee Smith


The contract's main benefit for Smith is that it protects him against an arbitrary decision by the commissioners to fire him. Smith would be due six months of severance pay and compensation for lost benefits if he's dismissed without good cause.

Smith called the contract a vote of confidence.

Traditionally, managers have worked at the pleasure of the board, Smith said today. They could be fired "for any reason or even for no reason."

In the last decade of so, more managers have sought contracts as a way to protect themselves and their families. About half the county managers in the state have contracts, Smith estimated.

Smith is the first Wayne County manager to have a contract. He also had one in Washington County, where he worked until taking the job here in late 2001.

Commissioners said they wanted to give Smith stability, especially with the chance that some commissioners will not be re-elected this fall. At least one new face is guaranteed in District 5, while three other incumbents face challengers.

Commissioner John Bell said that he'd like to give Smith a 10-year deal and then later joked, "We could do like they do in some Third World countries and make him manager for life."

"Whether he wants to or not," Smith responded with a laugh.

The new deal, which runs through May 2008, says that Smith's salary will be set as part of the budget process. He will receive at least any cost of living pay increase given employees, but commissioners could decide to raise his pay more.

The manager also receives all county benefits, $8,400 for travel, medical and dental insurance for both him and his family, and a 3 percent contribution to his 401(k) retirement plan.

Roads to be paved

The board agreed to approve the N.C. Department of Transportation's road-paving program for the new fiscal year.

Barring complications, the DOT plans to pave Owens Farm Road, from U.S. 117 to State Road 1354; Barwick Road, from SR 1934 to SR 1744; Farmer Road, from SR 1941 to SR 1744; Beaver Dam Road, from SR 1008 to SR 1216; and Atlantic Road, from N.C. 222 to SR 1342. The total length of those road segments is 3.6 miles, including 19 homes.

The DOT is about halfway through its priority list of 38 roads, engineer Tim Little said. It has been able to complete five to six roads a year.

No citizens spoke at either the DOT hearing or about a request to rezone nearly 2 acres at the intersection of Airport Road and Aviation Drive, which is just outside Goldsboro-Wayne Airport. The developer reportedly wants to build a small office building and a mini-storage business.

The county commissioners decided to delay the request to allow Commissioner Andy Anderson, who was traveling Tuesday, to ask questions he has about the property.

Other business

Also Tuesday, the commissioners did the following:

*Agreed to ask the state to begin maintaining Milwood Drive, Brebati Drive and Jacara Drive, all in the Mil's Manor subdivision near Saulston.

*Called a public hearing for 9:15 a.m. Tuesday, June 15, to consider whether to allow car sales as a special use in the county's "airport" zones.

*Proclaimed May as "Foster Parents Appreciation Month."