Rick Holman vacated the position of public works director in January to become city manager, and since that time has been wearing both hats.
Mayor Joe Burgess and Holman presented that the position should not be filled and that the superintendents of the streets, water, and wastewater, and fleet manager as well as the executive secretary of public works should all receive a pay increase to compensate for the increased workload.
The city will save approximately $80,000 by giving raises amounting to a total of $15,000 to these five employees and not filling the director position.
Finance Director Jace Bunting asked how it was that these raises were decided upon when most city employees had taken on increased workload, with no pay increase.
“We do these things and don’t make an issue of it and I’m just trying to figure out in what venue we get heard,” Bunting said. “ … There has been added responsibility to nearly every position and I’m just wondering at what point these things get recognized.”
Burgess said he felt this situation was unique in that a department head was eliminated and therefore others would have to take on responsibilities for which they had not been hired, such as increased interaction with the public in absence of a public works director.
Councilmember Paul Cozzens said city employees should “suck it up” as he said those in the private sector have had to.
“I tell my workers, ‘Work harder and faster or we all go home and sit on the couch,’” he said. “It’s just the way things are now.”
“But we’re asking some to suck it up and we’re asking others not to,” Bunting responded. “I’m having a hard time understanding the inconsistency.”
Councilmembers John Black and Don Marchant had a discussion regarding whether or not it was a problem that people in the city have had to work more hours than they expected including overtime because of increased responsibility.
Marchant said as long as they are hourly it should not matter because they should be happy to have the extra money, while Black said it is not always right because it impacts their lives and takes time they may wish to spend with their family.
Water Superintendent Robbie Mitchell said that because he is on salary he gets paid the same whether he leaves at 5 p.m. or 7 p.m. at night and he has had longer hours since Holman was moved to the city manager position.
Mitchell’s sentiments have been expressed by other salaried employees over the course of the last months in which the issue has been discussed. They have said they put in long hours with no raises and no compensation and they are frustrated that they are told to “suck it up” and compared to the private sector. Unlike the private sector, they do not share in profits, or enjoy larger salaries when the economy is doing better, they have said.
Councilmember Nina Barnes said she was concerned that the process be fair and in line with the reclassifications they were considering for other employees in the 2013 budget.
The council also discussed the 2013 budget and went line by line through all proposed reclassifications for employees. Their budgetary discussions covered a broad spectrum of issues including the possibility of converting vehicles to natural gas to save the city money.
These issues will be voted on in future meetings.