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Lucas named city administrator

"One day after a job posting for a part-time city administrator was pulled off the bulletin board at Langley City Hall, the city council gave the job to city attorney Eric Lucas.Lucas' 5-0 appointment was not unanticipated, as his name had been prominent at recent midafternoon council retreat meetings. Expected to work three days a week as an administrator in addition to his legal duties, Lucas will join the city staff next week.For his work, Lucas will receive $24,000 a year, but no benefits. That is in addition to the $32,000 budgeted by the city for legal expenses this year -- the bulk of which goes to Lucas.Although the confirmation vote was unanimous, it took about an hour of discussion to get to that point. Council member Doug Allderdice told the mayor and council that he needed a better explanation of the administrator's duties before he could vote for the expenditure. He said he also needed good reasons why the council chose to spend its money on a new staff position, rather than on fixing Langley's streets. The administrator's position is being funded by a long-distance telephone excise tax passed by the council last year. Those proceeds were originally earmarked for an administrator's salary or street repair.During the past few weeks, Mayor Lloyd Furman has stated that an administrator will provide for continuity as city voters choose new mayors and council members in the future. He also said an administrator will relieve him of some of the executive work load, and will be able to plan street improvements and sewer expansions at a level of detail impossible for a part-time mayor. Allderdice asked Furman just how much of a burden Lucas might pick up if hired. Furman said he was unsure.I'm not sure at this point how much he's going to relieve me, Furman said.However, the mayor said the administrator's position could easily pay for itself by preventing mistakes made by mayors less qualified than an administrator.Just because a person is elected, it doesn't mean that person is qualified, Furman said.Council member Ray Honerlah was more certain about the amount of help the mayor would get from Lucas. He said Lucas will take a hefty load off the mayor's shoulders.I've been very aware of the fact that there have been many weeks he's been working at least three-quarter time, Honerlah said. There really is a job to be done.There may also be intangible savings that never show up on the bottom line of the city's balance sheet. That could add up to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years, said council member Bill Hawkins.Maybe there's one lawsuit that doesn't get filed because we covered our bases this time, Hawkins said.The mayor does have final authority on all actions taken by the administrator. He may also discipline or terminate the administrator's term of employment without the consent of the council.With the addition of the new position, Langley's annual tab for executive-level administration is neither as low, nor as high as it could be. The city of Kittitas, which has a population of 1,120, pays its part-time mayor $4,800 a year. The city has no administrator. LaConner is higher on the pay scale. Currently in the midst of hiring a new, full-time city administrator, the 750-person city will pay between $47,000 and $55,000 for the position, in addition to the $600 a year it spends on its part-time mayor."

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