Council proposes ordinance to solve pay raise dispute

Athens City Council meeting Tuesday September 8, 2015 Athens, Ohio
Athens City Council meeting
Tuesday September 8, 2015
Athens, Ohio

Starting May 1, those parking Uptown might want to start carrying a few extra quarters in their pockets.

Athens City Council members passed a series of ordinances at their meeting Monday night allowing officials to move forward with the roughly $1.9 million reparations to the East Washington Street parking garage.

One of the ordinances raised parking fees from 50 cents per hour to 75 cents. The fee change will take effect on May 1. The garage generates roughly $288,000 in revenue in year, according to a previous Post report, though the projected revenue for this year was about $139,000. Most of that revenue goes toward garage repairs, but Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl said in a previous Post report that it’s still not enough to begin to cover the extensive repairs the garage currently requires.

Repairs will include fixing the garage and ceiling of the garage, a reapplication of deck coating and a complete rehabilitation of the garage’s elevator system.

Though council members have heard concerns from community members concerning the fee increases, Wiehl said the increases are necessary to pay for repairs to the garage.

“What do we do if we can’t finance it? Do we let it fall down?” Wiehl said.

Wiehl added the parking rates haven’t been raised since 2001, and actually dropped in 2006.

Council members also brought forward a draft of an ordinance Monday evening that would allow council to regain some of its previous payroll power.

The possible ordinance outlines conditions for current pay raises, as well as retroactive pay raises.

“This is something that needs to be addressed, and the sooner we address this and put it behind us, the better we will be,” Councilman Jeff Risner, D-2nd Ward, said.

The issue first arose in January when Wiehl alerted city council members that City Auditor Kathy Hecht gave four auditor’s office employees 3- to 4-percent pay raises and retroactive pay raises without the approval of council.

According to the Ohio Revised Code, “the legislative authority of a city, by ordinance or resolution, shall determine the number of … employees … and their respective salaries.”

Former Law Director Pat Lang said that due to “pay bands” established by council in a previous ordinance, Hecht’s pay raises were well within her power.

At previous council meetings, Wiehl urged city council to take back its power to establish pay levels.

“We’re trying to make a consistent kind of policy so we can know the expectations of what falls under councils responsibility,” Council President Chris Knisely said.

To create the policy, council’s Finance and Personnel Committee members focused on key issues in the problem at hand.

“Finance and Personnel (committee) has brought forward a draft for an ordinance to address at least two of the issues,” Risner said.

The draft of the ordinance would grant the power to give pay raises within pay bands — which are set by council — to any elected official.

However, the ordinance only allows city council to grant retroactive pay raises.

Wiehl was support of the draft.

“It comes down to your control,” Wiehl said. “I think it’s appropriate that you be in control of the pay.”

Despite the mayor’s approval, Risner said the ordinance might see some improvements before it can be put through the normal legislative process.

“It’s very difficult to get all the … stakeholders in this issue together and get their input and comments,” Risner said.



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