More Pay Raises for Town Employees

Bison Blinds

The Luther Town Trustees voted Tuesday night to give three Luther Public Works Authority employees $2 hourly raises, a move that will add $1,000 a month to payroll expenses, based on a 40 hour work week.

The board approved each raise separately.

The first item called for consideration, discussion and possible action regarding hiring a maintenance person … as soon as a qualified applicant is found. The job was advertised on the Town’s Facebook page in December and it was reported five applications have been received. The job had paid $10 an hour.

“You can’t keep anyone in that job for $10 an hour. We spend money to get the person trained, and then they leave,” said Trustee Birlene Langley. The job, under the direction of a supervisor, includes maintaining the town’s water and sewer systems, fixing underground pipes, putting up the town Christmas tree and lights and other tasks.

Soon the board was voting on a motion to move the pay up to $12 an hour and it passed with yes votes from Langley, Carolyn Lawson and Andy McDaniels.

Mayor Cecilia Taft voted no, and Trustee Ron Henry abstained.

Next up was discussion of the pay structure of the “number one maintenance position.” Turns out that person currently makes $12 an hour, the same new wage the number two person will be getting when hired. So a pay raise for the number one was put forth. Mayor Taft mentioned there had been no employee evaluation of the current employee, and there was other discussion about the current employee’s job performance in the open meeting instead of an executive session. But soon another motion was called to give the Maintenance Worker a $2 an hour raise.

Trustee McDaniels said, “We don’t pay enough for them to have to go into a hole up to their waists in water when it’s cold, or to fix a sewer line.” The maintenance employee also makes daily visits to the Town’s water towers and monitors the lagoon.

The raise was approved with three yes notes. Again, Taft voted no and Henry abstained.

Finally, the board considered the pay structure for the Utility Clerk. Lena Wright has been in the position for three years, McDaniels asked her during the open meeting how much her pay was. She answered $13 an hour. Soon a motion was made to raise her pay to $15 an hour. There were three yes notes, with Taft voting no and Henry abstaining.

After the meeting, observers pointed out that the LPWA staff members now make as much as most members of the police department and wondered why the fire chief hasn’t received a raise. The police chief received a raise last month.  

The budget for LPWA appeared not to be considered during the meeting to check available funding.

Revenues for LPWA for water, sewer, sanitation fees from Town residents is budgeted at $276,000, according to the proposed 2016-2017 presented at the June 14, 2016, public hearing. The budget was later approved before taking effect last July.

However, the budgeted operating expenses, according to the budget, came in at $291192, more than projected revenues. Personnel Services & Maintenance were budgeted at $96,080. During this memorable meeting last September, it was revealed that Mayor Taft had acted solely in using an infusion of tax money to pay off nearly $24,000 in debt repayment carried by LPWA.

In October, the Town then voted to spend $64,000 on two police vehicles and a command vehicle for the fire department. The LPWA carries that debt instead of the Town, by law.

In December 2016, the Treasurer’s Report listed $65,120.74 in LPWA’s available funds, with $12,045 in the LPWA Rainy Day Fund. LPWA spent $4,787 in payroll in December 2016. Health insurance and other employee benefit costs for LPWA employees appear in the Town’s monthly bill report. And LPWA had just less than $39,000 in bills for the month of December including a $7,057 bill to Eastside Waste for trash service, according to claims presented at the Board Meeting.

Wildfire January 10, 2017. Moonrise over the contained fire at 178th & Dobbs. Photo credit #LutherFire

Although the Trustees were generous in giving raises to LPWA, it was of note that during the regular Town Board meeting a few minutes earlier, the Trustees questioned the Fire Department’s request for hotel rooms for six firefighters to attend the 2017 Destry Horton Wildland Fire School in Lawton. Even though the funds come from the Fire Department’s grant, not the general fund, the board stipulated only three rooms for two nights for six firefighters not to cost more than $600, instead of letting the fire fighters work it out for themselves or simply give a budgeted cost. The board would not consider adding another room in case Luther’s female firefighter attends the training. The volunteer firefighters presumably will pay for their own transportation, meals and other expenses associated with the three days they’ll spend away from home to train in battling wildfires in our community. Just Wednesday, the volunteer force put out a ten acre blaze southeast of town.

The meeting was broadcast on Facebook Live through Luther Register’s FB page.

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  1. Thank you Luther fire department for all you do! So good to hear that 6 firefighters have the chance to go get more training in Lawton (the more training the better!) And thank you Dawn for keeping everyone informed about how money is being spent in our little town.

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