Monday, August 7, 2017

Council wants to think more about pay raises

After months of thinking about it, when the time came to vote, Midway City Council members decided they needed to keep on thinking about paying the mayor and council elected in November 2018 a lot more than the officials make now.

The ordinance the council defeated Monday evening would have raised the mayor's annual pay to $12,000 from $1,200, and the council members' $600 salary to $4,800 a year. In monthly terms, that would take the mayor from $100 to $1,000, and the council from $50 to $400. Proponents said the current pay is archaically low and the officials will have even more to do as Midway develops.

Sarah Hicks moved to adopt the ordinance, and Steve Simoff seconded it. But they were the only council members who voted for it, and Simoff said afterward that he still wanted council members to get only $200 a month.

That sentiment was shared by at least some of the four members who voted no: Kaye Nita Gallagher, John McDaniel, Bruce Southworth and Libby Warfield, who had been the only one who publicly expressed significant reservations about the proposal.

Gallagher said, "I think the 400 is way too much," and suggested cutting it to $200 a month and adding another $100 to the pay of the mayor, who "is going to have a hell of a lot more to do." Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said that extensive a change would require redrafting of the ordinance and two more readings.

Warfield said in June that data from the Kentucky League of Cities showed that annual salaries in the six Kentucky towns most similar to Midway average $6,000 for the mayor and $1,900 each for council members.

Hicks said at Monday's meeting that there are "significant differences" between Midway and those towns, including income. She said Midway's median income is $53,874, and the next highest income among the group is in Bloomfield, at $39,196. She said Midway's income is "significantly above the state levels, but all the other cities were below the state levels."

Hicks also noted the town's proximity to interstate highways and much larger towns, and said "We are the only city of our size that has a university." She said much of the income in the other comparable towns "comes from manufacturing or extraction."

Southworth, a retired Midway and Versailles city official, said "I don't do this for the money. That's not the reason I'm here. It don't really make any difference to me."

McDaniel suggested that the council vote down the proposed ordinance and have a workshop to learn more about the issue.

Vandegrift said the council pay in the ordinance could be lowered by amendment, without redrafting and extra readings, but no council member moved to do that.

"I'd like to look at it some more," McDaniel said, apparently reflecting a consensus. Hicks acknowledged, "We could do more financial analysis," looking at budgets of comparable towns and the percentage of expenses that go to administration.

Warfield suggested there are intangibles to consider when making comparisons with other towns: "Do they give me the same feeling I get when I'm in Midway?"

After the 2-4 vote, Vandegrift said further action should be initiated by the Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee, chaired by Hicks. When she asked about a time frame, Vandegrift said he would send out more information on the issue this week.

Speed bumps: The meeting was the first since Vandegrift announced that he was getting rid of the removable speed bumps on East Stephens Street because of deterioration and would seek a refund of $5,300 from the manufacturer.

Gallagher asked about a four-way stop at the intersection of Brand and Stephens streets, but Vandegrift said state traffic engineers have told him that would cause accidents. "I think the answer is enforcement," he said, but added after some discussion, "We need to pursue all options. We're not going to stop working on this."

Southworth, who lives near the intersection, suggested lowering the speed limit, since "It makes the ticket bigger" for a typical speeder.

Tax rates: The council held first reading of an ordinance setting tax rates for bills that will be mailed this fall. The real-estate rate would remain the same, 10.2 cents per $100 of value, but the tax on personal property would be lowered to 12.43 cents from the current 14 cents.

Vandegrift said afterward that the rates are calculated to raise approximately the same amount of money as last year. He told the council that he would schedule second reading and passage of the ordinance for the next meeting, Aug. 21 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Police contract: Vandegrift announced that the City of Versailles, which provides police protection in all of Woodford County, had begun negotiations with the county government on a new police contract without involving Midway.

The mayor said he told Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott and County Judge-Executive John "Bear" Coyle that all three governments should be involved in the talks, rather than Versailles approaching Midway after doing a new deal with the county.

"We're going to be asked to pay more money," Vandegrift said.

Other action: The council approved an encroachment permit for Equine Analysis Systems of 107 W. Main St., which has bought the vacant lot that lies behind it and fronts on Winter Street. The permit (and a state permit, because Winter is US 62) will allow EAS to build a driveway and handicapped parking area.

Southworth asked why half of the excavated area would be graveled instead of paved. Deborah Boehler of EAS cited cost. She said part of the driveway had to be paved to keep gravel from sliding into Winter Street, according to the state permit. Hicks said, "I'm glad you're using gravel, because it's permeable and reduces toxic runoff."

The council deferred action on a request for an event permit for Bourbon Country Burn, a proposed bicycling event, because of questions about the route, personnel to help with traffic control and the plan to use Walter Bradley Park, which has the free water supply, as a water stop.

Hicks also voiced concern about the number of races and similar events being routed through Midway: "We could just get so popular that it might not be an asset any longer."

Steve Morgan of the Midway Business Association announced that the next free CPR class for bystanders will be held Aug. 16. He said seven people (four business owners and three council members) attended the class held last month.

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