Steamboat Springs City Council members Tony Connell, left, and Scott Ford are sworn in on Tuesday night. The council then reached a compromise on a proposed pay plan for city employees.

Photo by Scott Franz

Steamboat Springs City Council members Tony Connell, left, and Scott Ford are sworn in on Tuesday night. The council then reached a compromise on a proposed pay plan for city employees.

Steamboat Springs City Council approves $600K in salary, benefit increases for city employees

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— The magic number was $600,000.

That's how much of the city's proposed pay raise plan — worth $738,000 — a divided Steamboat Springs City Council was comfortable approving this year.

The council's decision Tuesday night means the city will be able to increase the base wages of city employees who have sustained years of furloughs and salary freezes.

A recent market study found several of the city's employees also were making comparatively less than their counterparts in other cities.

The $600,000 in raises wasn't everything the city had asked for, but City Manager Deb Hinsvark said she appreciated council's decision.

“I think this council did their due diligence well and carefully considered what we were proposing,” she said after the meeting. “Except for firefighters, we haven't increased base wages in five years. It's a big move to make a change of this nature. I think they made a great decision.”

The council compromise came after Hinsvark and Finance Director Kim Weber gave the most well-received presentation to date on the salary adjustments, saying they were years overdue and would be sustainable.

Sonja Macys was one of two council members who supported the pay proposal in its entirety.

“I think we need to get off the dime. We need to value our human resources, and we need to recognize they are the most direct link to customer service we have,” Macys said.

Macys and Scott Myller were ready to embrace the pay plan as presented, but the five other council members weren't comfortable with the original price tag.

In the end, council resolved to try to establish a new compensation policy that could help it avoid having the same heated debates about employee pay in future years.

After reaching the compromise on the pay plan, the council moved into an equally contentious topic of funding for a new police station.

Saying much more work needed to be done, a majority of the council refused to sign off on $2.5 million for the facility next year.

After much discussion about the next steps for the station, the council instead voted to give the city $300,000 next year for due diligence and planning of the new police headquarters.

“What it forces us to do is ask for the next round of funding, which is a good thing,” Hinsvark said after the vote.

The city has spent about $120,000 on planning and site visits for the new station, according to Anne Small, the city's director of general services.

The council is tentatively scheduled to hear a presentation Dec. 3 about the latest sites being considered for the station.

Macys was the lone "no" vote on the police station funding, the pay plan compromise and the first reading of the 2014 budget.

She favored the city's original proposal for the raises and still wasn't convinced the city needed the money in the budget for the police station planning because of previous missteps on the project.

Kounovsky re-elected council president

Tuesday's meeting was one of the more action-packed sessions this year.

It kicked off with new members Tony Connell and Scott Ford being sworn in, and Bart Kounovsky being re-elected as council president.

But competition for the No. 2 slot on the council was fierce.

Kenny Reisman nominated Myller for a second term as president pro-tem, Connell nominated Ford for the job, and Ford nominated Macys.

Council members in favor of Ford and Macys said they wanted to see “new blood” and some new ideas on the council’s leadership team.

It took several rounds of voting for Myller to win the post again, with Magill and Connell initially supporting Ford, and Macys supporting herself along with Ford. Myller eventually won support from Kounovsky, Reisman, himself and Connell.

“I heard you loud and clear you'd like to see more out of me, and I'll do that,” he said.

In the other big decision of the night, the council decided how to move forward after voters here overwhelmingly approved spending the city's lodging tax on trails and the Yampa River promenade for the next decade.

Members resolved to form two seven-member steering committees to help oversee the distribution of the funds on both projects.

The council will determine the composition of the steering committees Nov. 19 and plan to interview candidates Dec. 17 after the committee spots are advertised.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.

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