JEA's CEO gets contract extension, raise

Downtown tower assessment also moves forward

The head of JEA is sticking around for another three years.

The Board has approved a contract extension for CEO Paul McElroy, which now stretches through September 2018. His base salary boosts to $437,172 and he will get a 3% annual boost, according to the contract documents.

There were some concerns about the extension- not over whether McElroy is the right man for the job, but over the process by which the contract was negotiated. Board Chair Helen Albee led the process, ending with a contract that included not just a base pay annual adjustment, but incentive pay as well. Board member Husein Cumber wanted more emphasis on meeting goals than getting a built in raise.

“We’ve got major issues ahead of us- we’ve got the rate structure we have to deal with, we’ve got the City contribution, we have the clean power plant, we’ve got the pension issues. To me, we set the goals and there’s pay tied to it,” says Cumber.

Cumber is the only Board member which ultimately voted against the extension- noting that it’s because of his objection to the process, not to McElroy.

“All the challenges we have is why it’s so critical for us to keep the talent that we have,” says Board member Lisa Strange Weatherby.

Other Board members joined his concern, however, agreeing to create an ad hoc committee that would be involved in the next contract negotiations which came around.

One of the many issues McElroy and the Board will be tackling in the near future is what to do with their Downtown tower, which currently houses their headquarters but is facing a number of issues.

“Degradation of plumbing and electrical systems, the fire protection system, flooding issues that occur Downtown, issues with our backup generation,” says JEA CFO Melissa Dykes.

JEA engineers have been assessing all of the building’s needs, but Dykes says they want a third party to validate their findings and consult on the best plan forward, which could include repairing the facility, moving in or out of Downtown, or demolishing the building and rebuilding on site.

Initially, the recommendation was for a $3 million spending cap on that assessment.

“If it appears as they get in to peeling back the layers on this building that this building is a foregone conclusion, that we’re going to demolish or move, [I’m hoping] that we have the ability and flexibility to not spend a lot of money on a study on a building we’re about to demolish,” says Board member Robert Heekin.

McElroy admitted the $3 million was an “arbitrary” number that they didn’t intend on getting close to, but had wanted to leave enough room to not have to come back to the Board. On the recommendation of Cumber, the price tag was dropped to $1 million.

The options and assessment of each will come back to the Board for selection.

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