News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
TUESDAY, JUNE 12, 2007

Lawrence agrees to pay engineer $115,000 a year

By Kristen Bishop 340-2443

MOULTON — After shuffling through five engineers in about five years, the Lawrence County Commission appears ready to keep Mac Rushing around for a while.

The commission agreed Monday to pay the engineer, who took charge of the county's Road Department on June 4, an annual salary of $115,000 — about $25,000 more than the previous engineer, Gordon O'Neal.

O'Neal resigned April 23, two weeks after the commission put him on administrative leave pending an investigation into alleged "inappropriate material" on his work computer.

The commission chose to hire O'Neal in 2005 over Rushing despite Rushing's 16 years of experience heading the department. He retired with an illness in 2003.

Chairman Mose Jones and Commissioner Bradley Cross are the only remaining commissioners who were involved in the 2005 decision. Jones voted to hire Rushing, while Cross voted to hire O'Neal.

During Monday's meeting, Jones stood by his previous decision.

"He worked really hard to get this county moving when I was first elected," said Jones, who has served on the commission for more than 20 years.

Cross, who abstained from voting on whether to rehire Rushing this time around, also abstained from voting to approve his four-year contract Monday because he "was not considered in the negotiating of his salary."

"No offense to Mac. I don't blame him getting as much as he can, but this looks like the sticker price on a car," he said. "I've bought many vehicles in my lifetime, and I've never paid the sticker price."

Cross reminded the commission that the state pays 70 percent of county engineers' salaries — but only up to $91,000.

"It's up to the commission to put things into perspective and see whether we can afford it or not," he said.

Commissioner John Terry said Rushing presented his salary requirements during the initial interview and that all the commissioners present were aware of the increase.

The motion to approve Rushing's contract passed 4-0 with Cross abstaining.

The county engineer came prepared to his first commission meeting with a state grant request to repair three county bridges.

Rushing estimated the total cost at $48,240 to repair the bridges located south of Lawrence County 36 on Lawrence County 200, on Lawrence County 225 and east of Lawrence County 170 on Lawrence County 316.

If the grant is approved, the state will pay 90 percent of that amount, leaving the county with a 10 percent obligation.

The commission unanimously approved his request to sign the paperwork.

Commissioner Alma Whitlow asked Rushing how the roads looked and what he had planned for the near future.

The engineer said the county has been focusing solely on constructing new roads and has neglected to maintain its current paved roads. He said he will continue to use bond money to build new roads but plans to begin resurfacing and patching existing roads.

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