City council members on March 25 revisited City Manager Scott Koenig's interim proposal to increase the salaries of four members of the city staff, but ultimately decided to go along with Koenig's recommendations.
The discussions came during a routine vote to accept a March 11 Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee Report that recommended the full council approve the pay increases.
Responding to council members who questioned whether the raises were completely justified, City Manager Scott Koenig said he suggested the salary increases under the interim managerial plan to compensate four senior personnel for taking on additional responsibilities of people who had left city government and had not replaced.
In the case of information technology director Andy Siegel, that individual received an extra increase to compensate him for the experience he gained during two years as interim director, Koenig said.
The largest raise was for the city's planning director, Ann Marie Townshend, who took on the responsibilities of the city's parks and recreation director, allowing that position to be eliminated from the budget and realizing a savings of $81,000. Townshend was compensated $11,370, in addition to her regular salary, for taking on the parks and recreation job, which includes oversight of the new city library.
Third District Councilman Sean Lynn, who chairs the legislative committee, noted he considers the salary hikes fair compensation for those persons, particularly in that the city is saving money by not hiring replacements.
"This is not a rush to spend money," Lynn told council members, adding, "It's not fair to ask these individuals to work for free."
"We have talent here," he said. "Let's don't lose it."
In general, however, council members seemed to be looking ahead to upcoming budget talks and a chance to revisit the salary issue. Second District Councilman William F. Hare said, "come hell or high water," council will need to look at salaries for other city workers, many of who have not received raises in recent fiscal years due to budget constraints.
The eight-member council – First District Councilwoman Beverly C. Williams was not present – approved Koenig's recommendation by a 5-3 vote. Council members David Anderson, William Hare and Wallace Dixon voted in the negative.
After the meeting, Lynn said he felt the pay increases under Koenig's interim managerial plan were justified.
"We're getting more bang for our buck by having one employee do the jobs of two people and paying two people plus benefits," he said.
Under the interim plan, Townshend will receive $107,315 annually; Siegel will be paid $82,059; water/wastewater supervisor Ralph McDougall will be compensated $61,000; and Finance Reporting and Accounting Manager Tracey Lisiecki will receive $71,600.
These salaries will be subject to review again during the FY 2014 budget negotiations.
Page 2 of 2 - During the Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee meeting that preceded the regular council session, committee members considered a plan about how to deal with extended absences of council members, particularly due to illness, or in the case of Fourth District Councilman David Anderson, a projected military deployment.
In general, the plan defines reasons for such absences and sets up a procedure for excusing the absence.
The major objection to the plan came from Hare, who felt council persons should not receive their salaries if they do not attend scheduled meetings for extended periods.
"I don't think it's right for the citizens to pay people when they're not doing anything," he said.
Council members currently receive $7,416 per year in compensation.
Hare then amended the plan with a requirement that council members have their salaries suspended if they miss more than three meetings, even if those absences are excused.
The full committee agreed to release the plan to council, but without a recommendation for its adoption.
The legislative committee also agreed to Koenig's request for a study of space requirements for the city's administrative staff with an eye toward replacing the present City Hall. Currently, the city's administrative functions are split between the City Hall building and Weyandt Hall, located next to the old city library.
Council President Thomas Leary supported the idea.
"You owe it to your taxpayers to take care of your physical plant," he said. "Even a casual observer will tell you it's looking a bit tired. There's a multitude of reasons. Maybe we won't do it, but at least we'll know where we stand."
The cost of the study, approximately $20,000 to $30,000, will be included in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget.
The committee also approved and passed on to the full council a request to set up a system that allows city code enforcers to work at night and on weekends. Many code violations take place and thus are unreported during those hours, Townshend said. Hare moved to amend the request so the code enforcement could be done without incurring overtime costs.
In other actions, council heard the annual report of the city's Human Relations Commission, presented by Chairman Roy Sudler Jr. It also presented awards on behalf of the Downtown Dover Partnership for the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade.
The next meeting of the Dover City Council will be held at 7:15 p.m. Monday, April 8.