Spruill gets new contract, higher salary|Commissioners, county manager OK four-year deal

Published 9:15 am Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Staff Writer

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners on Monday unanimously approved a contract that keeps County Manager Paul G. Spruill on the job for four more years.
Spruill, 36, was first employed as county manager in July 2003. His current contract expires Saturday.
Under his new contract with the county, Spruill will continue in the post until Aug. 1, 2013, at an annual salary of $135,000, up from the $103,604 he received in the final year of his current contract.
However, the commissioners announced Monday that Spruill requested a nine-month delay in any salary change because of the county’s difficult economic situation. His new salary will not take effect until May 1, 2010, the commissioners said.
The commissioners praised Spruill’s work during the past six years.
Spruill said he was pleased to be able to continue to help lead Beaufort County.
“I am very thankful that my profession and this elected body allow me the freedom to take both a local and regional point of view each day that I come to work,” Spruill said. “As an eastern North Carolinian, I try to keep a perspective on not only the services the county provides for our citizens, but I am also conscious of the economic and environmental role that the county can fill in our rural region.”
Commissioner Hood Richardson said that while it was unfortunate that Spruill’s current contract expires at a time of financial difficulty for the county, it was important to negotiate a new contract that would allow Spruill to remain in Beaufort County.
“The facts are that the old agreement has expired,” Richardson said. “We know that other local governments have been interested in him in the past, and we want to discourage him from looking.”
The current agreement calls for Spruill to give Beaufort County 60-days notice in advance if he chooses to resign from his post. The current contract calls for Spruill to give the county 45-days notice.
In the event the board decides to terminate Spruill’s employment, it can take such action by majority vote without specifying to Spruill or the public a reason for the action, under the terms of the new contract.
Should the board take such action, the contract’s severance provision requires that Spruill be paid a lump sum equal to four months’ pay, associated retirement contributions, the cost of six months of health insurance and any unused vacation time.
During Spruill’s first six years as manager, Beaufort County has weathered many challenges — a fight with the Navy on the construction of an outlying landing field, significant increases in school debt-service payments and school appropriations, a change in the county’s mental-health leadership and state efforts to rewrite coastal stormwater rules, among others.
Among the challenges the county faces in the coming months are revaluation of homes and land in Beaufort County and construction of a new detention facility at the time of unprecedented levels of debt.
“We need to get the (new detention center) done but, most importantly, we need to discuss openly with the public the new financial burden on top of the unprecedented levels of debt that we accepted with our recent school bond,” Spruill said. “These conversations will be difficult, but this county benefits from an informed citizenry that takes a special interest in local government.”
In other business, the commissioners approved a request from county economic developer Tom Thompson for $10,000 for a study by the N.C. Loggers Association to assess the county’s potential for providing lumber to any future wood-pellet operation. The money will come from a designated economic-development fund.
The commissioners took no action on a request by a group of homeowners along Broad Creek to replace missing no-wake signs along the waterway. Commissioners directed Spruill to study past actions by the county in addressing no wake-zone requests.
Board Chairman Jay McRoy and Commissioners Ed Booth, Robert Cayton, Al Klemm and Hood Richardson attended the meeting. Commissioners Stan Deatherage and Jerry Langley were absent.