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Council to waive residency requisite?

By Chris Paschenko 340-2442

Two Decatur city councilmen voted in a previous term to make all newly hired department heads live inside the city limits.

When the council reconvenes Thursday at 8 a.m., it could grant a special exemption for Mindy Gilbert, who is expected to be appointed director of the city Animal Shelter.

Gilbert, who listed a Jasper address on her application and resume, said she would like to live in or near Decatur someday but can't focus on selling her home until the city's shelter transition is complete.

Gilbert worked for the city as a contractor, helping revamp the animal shelter administration and design renovations for a new shelter on Beltline Road Southwest. Both Councilman Ronny Russell and Council President Billy Jackson voted in October 2000 to require all future department heads to reside in the city within a year of appointment. The resolution also requires all department heads to maintain city residency.

"I think all department heads truly do need to live in the city," Jackson said.

"But I think it's important when choosing the best individual for the job to weigh out each case individually."

Councilman David Bolding said last week during director interviews that the resolution should be changed. He said unlike police, fire or other department heads, there is no reason an animal shelter director would need immediate access to the city.

City Attorney Herman Marks said a resolution is being prepared for the council that lifts the residency requirement only for the animal shelter director's position.

Councilman Gary Hammon disagrees with the move.

"You dance with who brung you," Hammon said. "That's a Bear Bryant quote from an Auburn fan. I don't think it's right that the council would make a rule like that and then for us to step back and say we don't mean it. Do you think the president of General Motors drives a Toyota?"

Councilman Ray Metzger said one exception opens the door for others.

"Then we'd have half of the department heads living out of town," Metzger said.

"If we're going to pay them one of the best salaries in the city, then they ought to live in the city and be available on short notice."

Russell has said the new Animal Shelter could be completed within 18 months.

Members serviced by The Center for the Developmentally Disabled work in the Beltline Road Southwest building destined for the new shelter.

The city plans to construct a building for the developmental center on Central Parkway Southwest at a cost of $650,000. Renovating the Beltline Road building to house the shelter and adoption center is projected to cost $1 million.

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