Council waffles on mayor's dough
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
When Councilman Dick Carter left Monday's work session, he was confident the group would address the mayor's salary at the next night's meeting.
He was wrong.
Carter said discussions at the work session led him to believe the council would decide 4-2 to increase the next mayor's salary to $42,000 a year. Raises for the future city council president and city council members were also set to be decided.
At Tuesday night's meeting, however, the motion never made it to a vote.
Carter said he was confused by the apparent about-face.
"I don't know what happened," Carter said. "What changed? I must have went to sleep or something."
The matter of the raises – and the role of Hartselle's next mayor – hasn't been laid to rest, however.
Carter and others said they were supporting a plan to increase the mayor's salary to $42,000 with yearly $1,000 raises. The next mayor would also be allowed to participate in the city's health care insurance but would not receive a municipal car. The mayor would be reimbursed for mileage for his personal vehicle if used for official purposes.
State law prohibits a city from setting the hours a mayor or councilman must work, though several on the city council said they would expect the duties of the next mayor to be expanded because of a change in personnel and procedures.
Councilman Tom Chappell, who said he thought the mayor's salary should be at least $50,000, said the mayor's job needs to be a full-time position.
"(The pay) eliminates a lot of good candidates in this town," Chappell said. "A person can't afford to take this job unless they are retired or semi-retired or has supplemental income and health insurance benefits."
Mayor Clif Knight said the increased salary was justified because of the expanded duties of the next mayor. Knight, who is retired but works as a full-time mayor, earns $12,000 a year and does not receive health care benefits from the city. Knight has not said if he will seek reelection.
The city council terminated the contract of City Administrator Ferrell Vest last month and the mayor will be picking up most of his duties. With benefits and car allowance, Vest earned some $87,375 per year.
Also, because of an increase in the city's population, the mayor will not be a voting member of the next council and will be expected to take on more economic development duties.
The proposal also would have increased council salaries.
The council president, who, because of the shift in the mayor's position will also taking on more duties, would have received $7,500 a year, up from $5,823. Council members currently receive $4,800 a year. That would have been increased to $6,000 a year.
That issue, and not the mayor's salary, was the reason Councilman Frank Jones said he wouldn't support the plan.
"That was the sticking point," he said.