Columbus discusses pay raises for city employees

Courtesy of Tom Hanrahan | Columbus
Cherokee County News-Advocate

Columbus Fire Capt. Steve Burton was joking, but some people took him seriously.
While filling in for Fire Chief Jason Allison, Burton dutifully gave his department report and then, in response to Mayor Grant Spieth’s query if there was anything else, he asked if he could get a raise or if he would have to go through his boss.
While most members of the Columbus City Council in attendance at Monday’s regular meeting smiled or laughed quietly, Council member Dale Burton almost immediately moved for a 50-cent-an-hour pay raise for all city employees.
While the motion did not pass a roll call vote, the proposal did draw plenty of discussion.
“I’ve left it up to the Budget Committee and I’ve asked and I’ve asked and I’ve asked,” Dale Burton told the Council. “And I haven’t gotten a response, so I’m asking again.”
When asked by Council member Thomas Niegisch if the city could put it all on his tax bill, Dale Burton shot back.
“I pay taxes just like you do!” he said.
Other Council members noted that the city does give annual pay bumps to employees and that its employee benefits are outstanding, as well. The city’s annual salary adjustment is a bonus, rather than a rate increase, City Clerk Cherri Chancellor told the Council.
“I started with the city as a laborer,” Council member Gary Smith said. “And right after I started, my old employer wanted me back at higher pay. But after looking at the benefits, staying with the city was the better deal.”
Another member of the council wondered how such a move might fit financially.
“Where’s the money coming from?” Barbara Capron asked. “Does a motion have to say where the money is coming from? It should.”
“We vote on things to do and we never say where the money is coming from.”
Budget Committee chair Mike Leighty said that doing what Dale Burton requested could put the city’s mill levy on a different level.
“This is probably going to jack it way up,” he said.
But not every effort by Dale Burton was shot down Monday. When City Superintendent Jim Burton presented a proposal for vacating two alley easements to accommodate a mobile home within the city’s ordinances, Dale Burton brought forward an ordinance change. The change came out of the Police and Licenses Committee that he chairs.
The council first passed a motion vacate the two easements, then took up the ordinance. The committee recommended reducing the minimum city lot size from 50 feet by 150 feet to 50 feet by 125 feet, deleting language requiring running gear, tongue, axles and running gear to be removed, and appointing Police Chief Jason Daniels as the public officer to enforce the ordinance.
Columbus resident Steve Dunlap was a member of the audience and he took exception with such moves.
“Is anyone looking out for the homeowner in moving these trailers and making exceptions?” Dunlap asked. “I’m saying, me being a home owner, I don’t want a trailer next to me.”
Dale Burton stood and addressed Dunlap directly.
“Then move out of Columbus,” he said.
The motion to accept the proposed changes to the ordinance carried.
In other action, the council:
Agreed to let Relay for Life organizers to use the city park for their event and allow the 4-H dog group to perform. The park does not normally permit dogs.
Heard from resident Sheila Colburn about street conditions in her neighborhood. Jim Burton said he would look into the matter.
Agreed to pull from service a police patrol car that had been involved in a July accident and use it as trade-in in “as is” condition toward the purchase of a new unit.
Approved the hiring of Corky Hicks for the position of police officer and a pay raise for Police Sgt. Kyle Clark.

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