The Tallassee City Council has been in executive session about as much as it has been in regular meetings the last couple of months.
The reason is always the same, “to discuss the good name and character of an employee.” It’s a reason allowed under Alabama law. After yet another lengthy executive discussion Tuesday, the Tallassee City Council removed Mayor John Hammock as superintendent of utilities.
“We made a decision we feel is best for Tallassee,” councilmember Bill Godwin said Wednesday on the council’s vote to remove Hammock.
The council voted on the move without any public discussion. Godwin would not say why the decision was made.
“Well, I can’t really say, but some things you hear are just rumor,” Godwin said. “Like most places we have some challenges.”
Hammock hasn’t addressed the decision publicly but has said he will be issuing a press release soon.
The decision comes after Godwin helped get a 100% pay increase for the superintendent of utilities last year. The council approved the increase, moving the stipend from $25,000 to $50,000. The salary for the mayor’s position is $25,000.
At the time Godwin acknowledged Hammock’s efforts in learning Tallassee’s utilities, getting certified in gas and working to a certification in sewer and water along with becoming a certified official with the Alabama League of Municipalities.
Prior to Tuesday’s council decision, Hammock was being paid $75,000 per year to be mayor and superintendent of utilities. Tuesday’s council decision means Hammock will only collect $25,000 per year as mayor. Hammock has four years remaining as mayor of Tallassee as the Alabama legislature passed a bill extending the term of elected councilmembers and mayors one more year this past spring after the current council and Hammock took office to get the elections off of the presidential cycle.
Hammock is currently campaigning for a spot on the Alabama Public Service Commission which has oversight of utilities such as Alabama Power.
Alabama law dictates a change in pay for positions of elected council members and mayors be made at least six months before an election. The council has authority to appoint the superintendent of utilities.
Alexander City’s mayor is paid $45,000 and a stipend of $15,000 to be utilities superintendent, for a combined $60,000.
Tallassee has a population of about 4,700 and Alexander City’s population is just shy of 15,000.
Alexander City has about 10,000 water customers but not all are in the city limits of Alexander City. Alexander City’s electric, sewer and gas departments only provide service within the city limits of Alexander City. The sewer department has approximately 5,000 accounts, electric has about 5,100 and gas has about 3,000.
Tallassee has no municipal electric service.
A prior city council in Alexander City discussed dropping the superintendent of utilities and increasing the total pay for mayor to $80,000 but the measure never left work sessions.
Godwin said councilmembers are looking at ways to move forward without the mayor as superintendent of utilities.
“We are working on that,” Godwin said. “There are several possibilities being considered and we haven’t made a decision.”