By BRADEN LAMMERS
Jeffersonville’s Board of Public Works approved a year-long contract to outsource the city’s communications to New Albany-based ProMedia Group at its meeting Wednesday.
The contract will cost the city $4,800 per month, or $57,600 annually. According to the city, the costs for the former communications director position was paid $38,000 in salary and the position cost the city an additional $20,000 when benefits and taxes were added to the pay, annually.
“ProMedia was retained last Friday, but it was contingent on the board of public works approving this agreement,” said City Attorney Les Merkley. “They basically will be doing all aspects [of communication] that were previously done by the communications director.”
As part of the contract, ProMedia will be responsible for creating a monthly video news release, handle the city’s social media outlets, including Twitter and Facebook pages, manage the city’s website and publish a quarterly newsletter for the city.
Mayor Mike Moore said ProMedia will attend every board of public works meeting, attend the department head meetings and attend regular Friday meetings with the mayor to go over the next week’s schedule.
“They’re going to be more involved than the previous communications director was,” he said.
City Councilman Bryan Glover, who was in attendance on behalf of council member Lisa Gill — the council’s normal representative at the board of public works meetings — asked if the administration was committed to printing a quarterly newsletter for the city’s residents — one of the things the council cited as one of the main tasks of the communications director.
“If the money is there for printing, we are going to do a quarterly newsletter,” Merkley said.
Moore also said contracting with ProMedia should resolve other concerns about the position the council had cited. He brought up comments made by city council members in their decision to move the communications director under the direct supervision of the Parks Director, then in the following council meeting to take steps to move the position under the city Clerk’s office, to get it an “arm’s-length” away from the mayor.
“That was the supposed concern of some council members,” Moore said. “We’ve got a company outside this building. Now, it doesn’t seem to me that [concern] now holds water.”
Glover agreed that the move was a compromise he could accept.
“I think this is an excellent compromise that satisfies both the administration and the city council,” he said. “They wanted to take the political nature out of the position, I think this actually does that.”
However, Glover abstained in the vote that approved the contract because he said he was acting as a representative of the city council. The contract was approved 2-0, with Glover’s abstention.
“I think what I heard from the council is that they wanted somebody that was non-political, who was going to reach out to all residents of Jeff and from what I see, and what I’ve seen in the past from ProMedia, I think they will ... do a great job at that,” he said. “I think they will do the job that the residents of Jeff deserve.”
Dan Williamson, owner of ProMedia Group, said he had not yet contacted the city council members to gather their input, but will likely attend the council meeting scheduled for Monday. He added that divisions that existed over the position will not affect the company working with both the mayor and the council.
“I’m really excited about working with the city council and the mayor,” Williamson said. “For me, the goal is to put a bright spotlight on the city of Jeffersonville and let everybody know about the great things that are going on here. You all do some wonderful things and I want to be a part of helping to communicate that to the constituency and to people outside, that are considering moving here.”
“The primary objective of ProMedia is to promote positive activity in the city, not just the administration but the city in general,” Merkley added.
Williamson piggybacked on the comment and said the communications group will focus on the positive things going on in the city.
“It’s rainbows and sunshine, quite honestly for us,” he said.
ProMedia already shot a video at Saturday’s public meeting for the Big Four Station. Williamson said the video was posted on the city’s website by noon Monday.
“I think you all will be pleased with the turnaround time and the activity we provide for the city,” he said.
With the contract approval Wednesday, Moore said the issues of whom to hire, and where to place the communications director for the city, should be resolved.
“This is a great solution to our void that we have,” he said. “I have only one goal with this position, to promote the city of Jeffersonville.”
He added that the move should keep the council from moving forward with its plan to hire a “public relations officer.”
“They need to do the city council’s work and let me do the mayor’s work,” Moore said. “The council needs to accept me as mayor and quit trying to do executive orders from the city council bench.”
He added that the council is also not able to move the position under the purview of the city clerk.
“It can’t be put under the clerk and we will be taking this issue before a judge to stop the nonsense,” Moore said.
He explained that according to the city attorneys the city clerk’s duties are outlined by state statute and supervising a communications director is not part of the job description and the duties cannot be added.