City council turns down request for water employee raises
The city council breezed through its agenda Monday night, although it did spend considerable time discussing items from the ways and means committee.
The ways and means committee met earlier that evening and considered a request from water superintendent Carl Chandler to give raises to seven of his eight employees. The raises would be $1 per hour, and would increase Chandler’s budget for salaries $16,000 for the year.
John Revolinski, chairman of the ways and means committee, said the committee approved the recommendation on a 2-1 vote, and he was the dissenting vote. Revolinski said it was a bad precedent to set to approve a raise outside of budget time, which is in January and February.
He said the committee looked at how much water purification experts are paid in comparable cities, and Fairfield’s workers were paid at typical rates. He said he didn’t see any justification for approving the raises now.
Chandler told the committee he felt there was a discrepancy between Fairfield city departments and that the proposed raises would alleviate that discrepancy.
Council and ways and means committee member Daryn Hamilton was one of the two yes votes, and he said he felt comfortable giving Chandler’s employees the raise because of how Chandler has managed his finances. He said Chandler was able to save $160,000 from his budget, so he thought the employee raises were warranted.
Jessica Ledger-Kalen, the other councilor on the committee, said she was torn on the issue. She voted to recommend the raises in committee, but during the council meeting she was less enthusiastic about them. She said there was a discrepancy between the water department and other city departments, although not as large as between the park and rec department and other departments.
Doug Flournoy asked the council if it was a good idea to approve raises outside of budget time.
“Are we going to get another demand in a couple of months from another department?” he asked.
Hamilton motioned to approve the raises, but the motion died for lack of a second.
At its meeting on July 14, the council approved a $5,000 raise for park and rec director Derik Wulfekuhle, bringing his salary to $57,371. Revolinski recommended the council award the raise to Wulfekuhle to bring his salary closer to that of other department heads. The council voted 6-1 to give Wulfekuhle a raise. Councilor Tony Hammes voted against the motion, saying he did not like approving raises outside of budget time.
In other news, the council discussed upcoming meetings it has scheduled with search firms to find a new city administrator. The council plans to meet with Pat Callahan of Callahan Municipal Consultants on Aug. 25, and then another search firm on Sept. 8. The council spent a few minutes writing down the questions they plan to ask the search firms.
A few of the councilors, and City Clerk Joy Messer, said the council should hire a city administrator who has experience working with Iowa law. Revolinski said sometimes administrators from out of state assume they can do things the way they did in their home state, only to find out the hard way they can’t do them like that in Iowa.
Mayor Ed Malloy said the search firm might not bring back as many candidates if it restricted its search to city administrators in Iowa.
The councilors also plan to ask the search firm how long their preferred candidates stay in the jobs they’re hired to do.