Lake Norman & Mooresville

Council rebuffs manager's plan

The Statesville City Council last week rejected City Manager Rob Hites' request for $8,900 to help conduct the search for a new police chief.

As city manager, Hites has the authority to select a replacement for Chief Steve Hampton, who is retiring. Hites wanted the money to establish an “assessment center” to develop a specific interview process.

“The assessment process would provide me with an objective analysis,” Hites told the council Monday, “and gives me a far more scientific evaluation of the candidates than simply my gut reaction.” He also noted that the same process had been used last year to hire David Bullins, the city's new fire chief, from Greensboro.

The council voted 4-2 against the request.

“I just don't understand why we are so anxious to spend this money,” said council member Jap Johnson, who has objected to similar requests in the past.

“We already have people in the police department who are very experienced,” added council member Cecil Stallard.

Mayor Pro Tem Michael Johnson suggested appointing an interim chief from within for six months to “see how that works.”

Hites said state law gives him the responsibility for selecting the chief, and that he would proceed with the search without the extra money.

Meanwhile, council members Paula Steele and Flake Huggins voiced support for the request. “My experience shows that using the assessment center process works well,” Huggins said.

The council also:

Gave final approval to the rezoning of a 16.59-acre plot behind the Home Depot on U.S. 21 to permit the construction of 240 apartment units. The board elected to approve the zoning change even though it differs from the concept plan for the area presented in 1999.

Reappointed Bill Long and Mitchell Johnson to another term on the Statesville Airport Commission.