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Norwood inks contract ahead of new elects

In a special-called meeting Thursday evening, the Norwood Town Council voted to give its town administrator a 90-day contract before three newly elected officials take office.

Along with a contract, John Mullis also gets an annual pay raise of nearly $10,000. The contract was enacted to ensure Mullis stays long enough to complete a smooth transition, town leaders said.

“We’re concerned about what could happen,” Commissioner Wes Hartsell said about the newly elected board possibly terminating Mullis, who serves as town administrator and public utilities manager.

“I’m wearing two hats and managing all of the projects going on,” Mullis said, adding the newly-elected commissioners campaigned on eradicating projects the current board had approved.

“My interest is the continuity of the town,” Mullis continued. “I want to have a little bit of assurance.”

The contract runs through the first of March. Afterward, it reverts back to month-to-month. It pays Mullis $60,000 annually, compared to his previous salary of $50,750.

Mullis defended the new salary as significantly less than the average compensation for administrators in North Carolina towns with similar populations.

“We didn’t want it to look like a sweet deal,” Mullis said. “How can 90 days be a sweet deal? If it had been any longer, I wouldn’t have accepted it.”

Prior to the contract, Mullis had no written agreement or terms for his employment other than a salary.

Another strategy of the contract is to allow new board members time to determine if they can work with Mullis before making a quick decision on his fate.

“Come January – February, I’ll know if we have a way to work together,” Mullis said.

Only Commissioner James Lilly voted against the contract.

Thursday marked the last meeting for Mayor pro tem Linda Campbell and Commissioner Betty O’Neal.

The board next meets Monday when Harold Thompson assumes the office of mayor and Betty Harrison and Larry McMahon are sworn in as commissioners.

In other town business, the board voted unanimously to finance a new $57,096.19 truck for 60 months with Uwharrie Bank at 3.75 percent interest. The truck for the town’s water and sewer department replaces one previously damaged in a fatal crash. Insurance proceeds for the wrecked truck have already been deposited in the general fund.

Town leaders also approved $200 Christmas gift cards for town employees.

Another unanimous vote approved the town’s plans to apply for a grant toward a $4 million renovation at the wastewater treatment plant.