Leader Blues

Monday, November 19, 2007

TOP STORY >>Pay raises for mayor, chiefs in the works

Leader staff writer

Most members of the Cabot City Council met twice this week to discuss the proposed $8.2 million budget for 2008 and found little fault with the numbers for public works, fire and police.

They will meet again Monday, Nov. 26 to go over Mayor Eddie Joe Williams’ request for $10,000 for raises for department heads to be divvied up as he sees fit. They also will likely discuss a raise for the mayor who at $58,643 is paid less than the city attorney and the police chief who are paid $66,621 and $58,879 respectively.

Alderman Eddie Cook, chairman of the budget committee, has said the mayor’s salary needs to be high enough to attract qualified candidates for office. At the current level, it attracts only retirees with other income sources, he said.

Alderman Ed Long, chairman of the public works committee, was unable to attend the Thursday meeting, which focused on fire and police, but he did attend the Tuesday meeting which covered public works.

Due to illness, Alderman Virgil Teague has not attended a meeting since early summer. But on Thursday night a partially constructed wheelchair ramp in the council chambers indicated that his return is imminent.

After a brief discussion Tuesday night, the council told the mayor to add about $8,000 to the budget so that all employees can be rewarded for staying with the city.

For many years, Cabot firefighters received bonuses of $30 a year for each year they have been employed. Former Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh extended the bonuses to the police.

Tuesday night, the mayor asked the council members to give the bonuses to all the other city employees as well. In a letter, the mayor told the council that 67 percent of city employees participated in a survey regarding rewards and recognition and 59 percent of those who said they wanted the longevity bonus.

The bonus will cost the city about $23,000 for all employees.

On Tuesday, council members talked about the $50,000 subsidy MEMS needs to keep providing ambulance service to Cabot. The mayor said he intends to cut that cost in part by housing MEMS employees in two FEMA trailers behind fire stations.

Currently, firefighters respond to all emergency calls and often arrive on scene before the ambulance. Council members said using large fire trucks to respond to medical calls is a practice that is too expensive to continue. And if the ambulances are located at the fire stations there will no longer be a response-time advantage to continuing, they said.

During an interview after the Thursday night meeting, Fire Chief Phil Robinson said included in his budget is $15,000 for an emergency vehicle that will take the place of large fire trucks for medical runs.

“There is just so much time when they need our help,” the chief said.