City panel discusses residency requirements

Jefferson City is continuing to examine a city policy dealing with residency requirements for employees.

At the Council Committee on Administration meeting Wednesday, Human Resources Director Gail Strope presented an ordinance proposing to eliminate the city’s residency requirement for all department directors and only require the city administrator and city clerk to live within city limits.

City policy is that all city employees are required to live within 25 miles of city limits, but seven out of nine department directors are required to live inside city limits.

The information technology services director and planning and protective services director are not required to live within city limits because the policy was enacted before those positions were created.

Strope said the City Charter only specifies the city clerk needs to live in the city.

City attorney Drew Hilpert said for some department directors, it would make sense to keep the residency requirement, especially for those who need to be able to respond to emergency situations. He suggested keeping the requirement for the director of public works and both fire and police chiefs.

Second Ward Councilman Rick Mihalevich suggested adding the information technology services director to the list of those who should live inside city limits, because often IT personnel are needed in emergency situations.

Hilpert said for many people, it’s the perception people who work for the city should live in the city.

“Perception is important,” Hilpert said.

Strope said people obviously don’t want high-ranking city employees to be living in Columbia, but expanding the requirements to at least five miles outside the city limits would help recruit workers.

“As a general concept, I would support changing it,” Strope said.

The discussion has come about because of recent issues in the city’s searches for a new finance director. In the last national search, city officials said several good candidates were eliminated simply because they lived just outside city limits and were unwilling to move.

Third Ward Councilman Bob Scrivner said a compromise could be keeping the requirements the same, but allowing people to be hired if they live outside city limits on the condition that when they do move, they move within city limits.

Mihalevich said he would be in favor of keeping the existing policy but allowing the council the discretion to approve exceptions based on individual situations.

Fifth Ward Councilman Larry Henry said he thinks the radius for department directors should be opened up by about 15 or 20 miles outside city limits because of the issues the city had during the finance director search.

“I got so frustrated,” Henry said. “We need to open up the radius, we really do.”

Ultimately, the committee opted to table the issue until the next meeting in March to allow Hilpert to find out what other cities require and to send the proposed ordinance to the entire council for feedback.

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