Murphy takes the reins at City Hall

Denise Richardson | The Daily StarMartin D. Murphy, newly hired Oneonta city manager, reviews some budget details with Meg Hungerford, director of finance, in her office at Oneonta City Hall on Monday morning. 

Martin D. Murphy was at Oneonta City Hall early Monday morning for his first-day learning the ins and outs of municipal corridors, departments, budget data, personnel matters and other details about local government. 

Murphy, 54, began as Oneonta city manager at a salary of $110,000 after his most-recent job as Cortland County administrator. He steps into the role of a city manager for the first time, bringing a background that includes experience as a city planner and economic developer in Odgensburg and familiarity with issues facing small and mid-sized cities. 

“I will bring some new perspectives to ongoing issues and to new issues as they arise,” Murphy said during an interview in his corner office on the first floor of City Hall. 

The position of city manager was created in a revised Oneonta City Charter, which was approved by voters in November 2011. The manager is to oversee daily administration of city government, according to Charter commission members, thereby freeing the Common Council and the mayor to focus on policy.

Michael H. Long started as city manager Oct. 1, 2012. He announced his retirement, which was effective May 29, after losing the confidence of the Oneonta Common Council.

Meg Hungerford, Oneonta director of finance, served as acting city manager after Long retired and applied for the job.

Murphy, who succeeds Long and who was among 36 applicants for the position, said Monday that he expects to lead and oversee day-to-day operations of the city and work as a liaison between the various departments and the council members.

Murphy, who will attend his first Common Council meeting at 7 tonight, said budget issues and establishing lines of communication with Common Council members will be among priority matters. Murphy plans a session with council members to speak specifically about communication protocols, which he said normally aren’t addressed until they become an issue.

“Communication is the basic element of a good working relationship,” Murphy said. “Everyone has the best interests of the city at the forefront — we all share the same goal.”

In his office Monday, maps and posters illustrating Oneonta’s characteristics leaned near the doorway, waiting for possible hanging on bare walls. Murphy said Monday’s agenda included a couple of meetings, checking out computers and learning passwords, he said.

“I’m basically getting acclimated,” Murphy said, who added that he is eager to meet with department heads and “get immersed with the budget as a first priority.”

City personnel and Common Council members already have started going over figures for generating a 2015 city budget to be approved within the next couple of months.

On Dec. 3, the Common Council adopted a $15.3 million general fund budget for 2014 supported by a $4.5 million tax levy.

“The budget is always a primary concern for the taxpayers and the city leaders,” Murphy said. “I’m hoping that I’ll be able to have some valuable input.”

Murphy was Cortland County administrator from May 2010 until Aug. 28. Between November 2007 and May 2010, Murphy was village manager for the village of Saranac Lake, and between May 1989 and November 2007, he worked for the city of Odgensburg.

During the week before his retirement, Long told the Common Council in his State of the City address that the city must continue addressing a projected fund gap as it updates its multi-year financial plan, which has drawn on city reserve funds.

With personnel wages and benefits last year amounting to 69 percent of expenses, the primary factor to making structural changes in the budget is full-time employees, Long said in May. City employee ranks have decreased by 10 workers to 129 in 2013, he said.

Murphy said he will be interested to speak with the mayor and Hungerford about the city’s structural deficit.

‘‘The structural deficit won’t be corrected in any one year,” Murphy said. “But we’ll have to be sure we correct that, definitely, in time.”

Oneonta Mayor Dick Miller said he was confident that Murphy would expedite work toward acquiring the “enormous amount of material” before him.

“I’m delighted he’s here,” Miller said. 

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