(Posted Dec. 27, 2022)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
London city council voted down a measure calling for a 12 percent raise for elected and appointed city official positions. Had the measure passed, the raise would have gone into effect Jan. 1, 2024.
On Dec. 15, council members Greg Eades, Rich Hays, Joshua Peters, and John Stahl voted against the raise. Bryan Robinson voted for the raise, and Andy Hitt abstained. Hitt’s wife, Jennifer Hitt, serves as the city’s law director.
“It’s not the right time,” said council President Henry Comer, adding that people who hold elected office aren’t in it for the money. He said 12 percent would have amounted to a huge raise.
Prior to the vote, Kenna Combs, the city’s auditor, urged council and the public to look at the big picture. The last time raises were passed for elected and appointed city official positions was January 2020. While 12 percent sounds like a lot, she said, it amounts to 3 percent per year over four years.
Raises for these positions can only be considered every four years. This timeline prevents council members from voting on raises for themselves or other elected or appointed officials while they are in office. By the next time raises are considered in 2027, these positions will have gone without salary increases for eight years.
The positions include: mayor, auditor, law director, treasurer, council president, council clerk, council members, Board of Public Utilities members, Civil Service chairperson, and Civil Service member.
Combs noted that her original proposal to the city’s finance committee was for raises for full-time officials only.
Grass mowing fees
Council unanimously approved a change to its enforcement of grass mowing.
When lawns grow to more than 10 inches high, the city can issue a notice to offending property owners, giving them five to seven days to mow the grass. If the property owner does not comply, the city makes arrangements to mow the grass, then charges the property owner for the mowing.
With the change to the legislation, the city will now charge a $75 inspection fee to property owners who don’t heed the notice to mow. This is in addition to the charge to cover the city’s expense to do the mowing. The inspection fee is designed to cover the city’s cost to send personnel out to follow up on high-grass issues and make arrangements to fix them.
Additionally, repeat offenders will not receive a notice. On the second offense and any others thereafter, the city will automatically send crews out to mow. Offenders will not get a grace period to take care of the problem themselves. They will be charged for the mowing and assessed the $75 inspection fee on each repeat offense.
The city has had trouble with repeat offenders who don’t seem to mind paying the city to take care of their high grass. The hope, said Rex Castle, London’s safety service director, is that the additional inspection fee will help to cut down on repeat offenses.
Council passed the 2023 budget 5-1 with Eades casting the lone “no” vote. The overall budget for the year is $21.8 million. Within that amount, the general fund stands at $6.7 million for the year. Eades’ “no” vote came after he expressed a desire to first see how the votes went on legislation related to the proposal to construct a new gym for parks and recreation use. The budget included money for debt payment on bonds for the proposed gym. Council moved forward with the budget vote and later voted down the gym proposal.
Ward 3 vacancy
At their Jan. 5 meeting, council is scheduled to appoint a replacement for Anthony Smith who vacated his Ward 3 council seat in November. Residents of Ward 3 who are interested in the position must send a resume to Comer at firstname.lastname@example.org by Dec. 31 by Dec. 31. While Smith was a Republican, candidates do not need to have a particular party affiliation. The appointee will fill out the remainder of Smith’s term which expires at the end of 2023. If that person wants the opportunity to retain the seat past 2023, he or she must file to run in the May 2023 primary election.