City alters budget to fund pay raises

By Jack King

The City Commission approved a $500,000 budget change Thursday night that will fund raises for city employees ranging from 2 to 6 percent.
In the same vote, commissioners approved incentive pay increases for police and fire department personnel. In the fire department, incentive pay for paramedics will increase by 10 cents per hour. Firemen at the intermediate IV level become certified as paramedics they will receive an additional 75 cents an hour. Police officers will receive yearly increases ranging from $240 to $1,200.
Both departments will receive budget increases in their recruitment budgets, said City Manager Ray Mondragon.
The commission voted to table action on a request by City Commissioner Gloria Wicker that would have raised the salaries of commissioners and the mayor by $1,000. Wicker said the salaries have not been raised since 1986, but added that she had been convinced by other commissioners to put the issue before voters in a March 2004 referendum. She moved to table the item so that City Attorney Dave Richards can research the legality of putting the pay issue on a voter referendum.
In other business at the regularly-scheduled meeting, the commission approved extending the moratorium on enforcement of a city ordinance against prefabricated carports until Sept. 18 to give the city Planning and Zoning Commission a chance to hold a public meeting on the issue. The dissenting vote came from Mayor Pro Tem Gordon Smith, who said he was chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission when the ordinance was written.
“It took us almost two years to update the planning and zoning ordinances. We spent $80,000 to bring in an consultant and we held public meetings. Then, in 1999, we upgraded the carport ordinance because some of the carports we originally allowed collapsed under the snow. Out of respect for the volunteers and commissioners who enacted the ordinances, I think we ought to uphold them,” he said.
The Commission also voted to demolish the Teola Artman Girl Scout House, at Seventh and Sycamore streets, and to build a monument to Artman at the site. Representatives of the Girl Scouts Sangre de Cristo Council told commissioners they don’t have the money to make necessary repairs on the building. The council has terminated its lease on the building and sold it to the city for $1. The city Inspections Department recommended it be demolished.