New Steamboat City Council members poised to have big impact on employee pay, police station funding

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— There won't be a honeymoon.

That's what Scott Ford is saying as he prepares to start his Steamboat Springs City Council career next month.

Election 2013

Click here for coverage of this year's races and issues.

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Scott Ford

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Tony Connell

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Clark Davidson

Just minutes after Ford is sworn in Nov. 12 alongside either Tony Connell or Clark Davidson, Ford and the other new member will have to help a deeply divided council reach a consensus on a proposed employee pay raise plan and the potential of the city spending $2.5 million next year on a new police station.

And because the current City Council on Tuesday night failed to pass a first reading of the 2014 budget because of a lack of consensus on the city's pay raise plan, the two new council members suddenly are poised to greatly influence the budget outcome.

“I'm looking forward to it,” Ford said. “I think we're all going to do the right thing and come to a compromise. It's just going to take some more work.”

Connell and Davidson also are excited by the unexpected opportunity to have a big say on the budget.

With all three prospective council members saying Wednesday that they aren't ready to allow the city to budget $2.5 million on the station in 2014, that funding is now in jeopardy.

Council members Walter Magill and Sonja Macys, along with outgoing member Cari Hermacinski, on Tuesday night tried unsuccessfully to remove the funding.

Their effort was defeated by a majority of council members who wanted the funding to stay on the table so the police station project could move forward without any delay.

But the two new council members could create a new majority against the expenditure for the time being.

“I'm not going to say it shouldn't be a high priority, but I'm not willing to commit $2.5 million in this fiscal year,” Connell said Wednesday. “It needs to be done with due diligence. (The fire department) needs to be part of the discussion.”

Davidson said the city was “putting the cart before the horse” by budgeting the $2.5 million next year.

Ford also said he'd like to see the project slowed down.

“If you address police and you haven't addressed fire, where are we?” he asked. “It's going to be the largest single capital expenditure the city has ever made. I'm not saying delay it forever but be diligent.”

Ford and the other new council member also will dive into what has been a contentious council debate over the city's plan to spend $738,000 next year on salary and benefit increases meant to bring employees up to a market wage.

The raises also seek to rectify an issue called compression that exists when a veteran employee is making a comparable wage to a new hire.

At an election forum earlier this month, Connell and Davidson revealed they had some different views when asked if they supported the city's proposed pay raise plan.

Connell said looking at comparable communities and arriving at a percentage raise might not be the best approach.

“I do believe there are some market-rate increases that should be done,” Connell said. “But ... going position by position and looking at only mountain towns is probably not the way to go.”

He said the city should instead set its personnel costs as a certain ratio of its general fund revenue.

Asked about the pay raise plan at the forum, Davidson was more supportive of the city's proposed raises than Connell.

“I think a vast amount of city employees deserve raises,” Davidson said. “I don’t think they need to be jumped up a lot — it should be done over time. City employees in some departments make plenty," others not.

He said Wednesday that he sees room for a “quick, easy compromise” on the pay plan.

Ford said he plans to discuss and critique the data behind the city's proposed pay plan.

For one, he said the city shouldn't look outward to cities like Durango and Eagle to establish a market wage for its employees.

"The market is not Eagle County," he said. "It is the greater metro area of Steamboat Springs and Routt County."

Learn more about the City Council candidates at SteamboatToday.com/election.

Read more about the views of Steamboat City Council candidates

Clark Davidson: Invest wisely in our future

Tony Connell: Experience is an advantage

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

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Comments

Clay Ogden 11 months ago

"The market is not Eagle County," he said. "It is the greater metro area of Steamboat Springs and Routt County." - Scott Ford ... finally some common sense in this otherwise absurd process.

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Scott Wedel 11 months ago

I think Scott Ford will be an absolute nightmare for city staff because he will not simply go along with whatever is presented by city staff.

Does anyone doubt the reason that city staff's new info arguing for the salary increases were given only to city council members and not the public was because people like Scott Ford could find flaws in the data? With Scott Ford on the city council then city staff will have to respond to his showings of faulty data and so on.

I think it is absolutely outrageous that the city manager held private meetings with the entire council contrary to Colorado Open Meetings Law, provided city council with materials not made available to the public, and the current sitting council didn't insist that these things be corrected, but voted on the budget on Tuesday's meeting. That showed a complete disregard for having an informed public that could comment on the government's plans.

That sort of conduct is so outrageous that it would have been a fairly easy legal argument that a vote approving the budget was not legally conducted if it had passed.

I fully expect Scott Ford and Connell/Davidson to reject such games from city staff.

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John Fielding 11 months ago

Someone needs to launch a full investigation and disclosure of the serial meetings problem. If no sitting council member calls for it then please, Scott, and Clark or Tony, get in there and call for accountability!

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John Fielding 11 months ago

A good place to make an investment in employee compensation is at the top. Our city council members receive an insultingly low remuneration for their service. One of the results is that the City business cannot always be at the top of their priorities, they have to make a living too. I still believe that it is best that it not become a full time position for them, they remain closer to the community if they work in it. But when so often there is not even a contest for the position it speaks volumes. Suppose we needed some bus drivers but only 1 person applied? How about clerks, maintenance workers, planning administrators? If we only got a couple of applications we would realize the pay was too low.

One other result is that we have a disproportionate number of professionals on the council, Attorneys, architects, surveyors, realtors, consultants, businessmen and the like generally have a fairly high pay rate and can afford to make the commitment even when it costs them a slice of their time that could have been spent with clients. People in lower paying jobs would need the increased pay levels to still be able to care for their families. Having better representation of the non-professional residents of the community would probably also shift some priorities in a positive direction. Cooks, clerks, teachers, health care workers, carpenters, mechanics and the like can also be very effective in reviewing the pertinent information and making astute conclusions to base their voting on. But they cannot afford the loss of wages for the time needed to do the job properly.

If we spend another hundred thousand annually on council pay, I bet we won't see any more uncontested races. And I bet we'll see an increased dedication to real representation, an increased interest in getting the concerns of the community expressed, an even more careful handling of the public purse strings.

After all, you get what you pay for.

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John Fielding 11 months ago

This must not be construed as criticism of those who now serve. It is laudable that they effectively subsidize the city to serve in these positions. They should not be required to donate their service, and hence be required to have the financial ability to make it a charitable endeavor.

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