The Belgrade City Council this week approved hiring professional consultants to manage two personnel matters – one to prepare a compensation and classification study for city employees and another to manage the search for a new city manager to replace Ted Barkley, who is retiring this year.

The council voted unanimously to contract with Communication and Management Services, LLC, of Helena, to review the city’s compensation plan and develop recommendations for an updated or new compensation matrix. The new pay recommendations will be based on regional salary data, market competitiveness, the local cost of living and other relevant indicators. CMS also will recommend appropriate adjustments for the city to attain market competitiveness and respond to increases in the cost of living.

Prior to their vote, Barkley told council members, “Belgrade is a particularly difficult organization because we have the influence of Bozeman and the rest of Gallatin County (around us). It turns out it’s more expensive to live here than a lot of other places.”

Barkley added this would be the first time the city has had a professionally prepared plan to address compensation matters. He called the $15,500 cost of the study “a bargain” that can be shared among city departments proportional to the number of employees in each, so it won’t represent a big hit to any single department’s budget.

Barkley added he believes paying for the independent study “is the only way we’re going to get true objectivity.”

Council members concurred, voting swiftly after little discussion to accept the CMS proposal. It did the same for the proposal by Prothman Executive Recruitment of Issaquah, Wash., to recruit a new city manager for a fee of $18,000 plus direct expenses. Prothman is the same firm that conducted the search when Barkley was hired.

“I would say it turned out quite successfully,” Barkley joked after recommending that the council accept the proposal.

Barkley, who joined the city staff in February 2013, announced in October his intent to retire in August 2021. The city decided then to begin searching for his replacement in the spring to allow ample time to find the right candidate to succeed him.

Prothman will handle all elements of the search, including adopting a recruitment strategy, advertising, managing candidate interviews, and conducting thorough background checks/screenings.

Barkley said the new city manager will begin work in August or early September.

He recommended Prothman’s services, noting that the company is very familiar with the needs of communities in the Pacific and Inland Northwest.

When he announced his retirement last fall, Barkley said he will continue to work as a part-time consultant to the city for six months after the new city manager is on board. During that time, he will work on a complete revision of the Belgrade Municipal Code, as well as on improvements to the city’s capital improvements plan, website, and social media presence.

In other business during its meeting Tuesday, which was delayed by one day due to the President’s Day holiday, the council approved the establishment of lighting districts for Ryen Glenn Phase 8 and Prescott Ranch Phase 1, and also approved a resolution adopting the hazard mitigation and community wildfire protection plan proposed by Gallatin County.