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Westmorland council axes two positions

April 04, 2002|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

WESTMORLAND — In a move to free city funds, the City Council here voted Wednesday to do away with two administrative positions — the finance director and assistant to the finance director.

The council reached that decision on a night when three new members took seats. Those three council members are Henry Graham, Thomas Landrum and Victor Sanchez.

The council named Larry Ritchie, in the second year of his four-year term, as mayor, and Councilman John Makin — just elected to a second four-year term — as mayor pro tem.

Ritchie said during his tenure as mayor the council is going to focus on improving the quality and safety of city streets. He said concern for safety escalated after a child was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer rig while riding her bike on Center Street.

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Center had been a focus of controversy in recent years as the city and county officials argued over whose responsibility it is to upgrade that street. The issue has taken on new focus following the girl's death.

While Center is in the city, it is a funnel for commercial trucking traffic that makes its way off of Forrester Road as it moves toward and from Highway 86.

Ritchie said the council is going to try to work with the county to determine whether at least some of the truck traffic can be diverted from Center to increase safety for city residents.

He also said there is going to be a focus on improving city parks.

However, working toward improving streets and parks is going to take additional funds, Ritchie said.

For that reason the council voted 4-0 with one abstention Wednesday to do away with the two finance positions. Graham abstained from the vote.

Rita Ramos worked as finance director for the city for more than two years. Ritchie said it is not the council was unhappy with her performance. He said the cutting of her position was done simply to save money so those funds could be used for other projects.

City Clerk Sally Traylor will take on the financial duties. She will move from a part-time position to a full-time position.

Ritchie said the city is looking at the possibility of creating a city engineer and building inspector positions to push forward efforts such as street improvements.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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