Fri, Jan. 24

Jerome tables vote on residency rule
Voters must decide where town manager lives

Jerome will try again to hire a town manager before seeking to have the town's residency requirement overturned.

Voted in by residents years ago, the ordinance that requires certain town employees -- primarily department heads -- to live within the town limits can only be changed by another vote.

The issue became important recently when the town council started searching for a town manager. That search is in response to an overwhelming mandate by residents during the March primary election to switch from a council and commission form of government to a system with a town manager.

The first round of applicants resulted in the council interviewing two candidates in person. Gary Milliman, city manager of South Gate, Calif., was offered the job but ultimately turned it down. Finding a suitable home in Jerome was apparently a significant concern of Milliman and his wife.

During the July 25 council meeting, the issue of allowing a town manager to live outside of Jerome was discussed in detail. At that time, some council members hoped that Milliman might be enticed to reconsider if the residency requirement was overturned. The council also voted during that meeting to raise the offered salary for the position from $39,000 to $50,000.

At that meeting David Gordon, town attorney, told the council there is no way around the residency ordinance because it is a matter of town code. It must go before the voters.

Under the ordinance, a new town manager would have six months to locate within Jerome's town limits. Vice Mayor Jane Moore said on July 25 there would be no reason why the council could not extend that period and in the meantime hold an election to see if the residents would vote out the ordinance.

The matter was again on the council's agenda for Tuesday night's meeting. Advertisements have been run for the position and some applications have come in.

Moore changed her position on the residency requirement "I hope we can find somebody who's willing to live here," she said.

Council member Rebekah Kennedy agreed. "We are not the only town who requires people to live in town," she said.

Kennedy said she didn't think real estate prices in Jerome should be that much of an issue because prices are high everywhere.

"I feel strongly that this ordinance should stand," Kennedy said. "We'll find that person."

Councilman Gil Robinson said the town may be limiting the potential pool of candidates with the residency requirement. "I think we need flexibility here," he said. He recommended putting the question to the voters.

Town Clerk Al Palmieri said he polled the original applicants on the residency ordinance. "It was an issue with two of the seven applicants," he said.

Palmieri said it is an issue because of the salary being offered for the position. Council members generally agree that the $50,000 salary offered is well below what most qualified candidates can expect to be paid in other communities.

Mayor Bob Bouwman said the earliest the ordinance could be put on a ballot is February, and it will cost the town about $3,000.

Moore asked if the matter could be put on a ballot with other election questions to save money.

Palmieri said it could but there are no other elections scheduled.

Bouwman made a motion to table the matter until after the next round of applicant interviews. The motion was approved unanimously.

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