All 104 employees of the city of Kenai -- both full- and part-time -- will see a little something extra in their paychecks after July 1. The city council, on a 5-2 vote, approved a 1 1/2 percent pay raise at its Wednesday night meeting.
Mayor John Williams justified the increase by pointing out that inflation currently is 4 1/2 percent.
"I don't find this excessive," Williams said. "In fact, I find it a little low."
Not everybody was with the mayor in his assessment. Council members Duane Bannock and Jim Bookey disagreed.
"The worst thing as an employer is telling a good employee 'no,'" Bannock said. "Too often 'no' is interpreted as 'you're not doing a good job,' but that is not the case."
He said it is ironic the council would talk about a cost of living adjustment in the same year it is considering budget reductions.
Bookey said he had the same feelings as Bannock.
"This has nothing to do with the employees, (but) I will not support this," Bookey said.
Council member Pat Porter spoke in defense of the pay raise.
"We continue to ask our city employees to do more," she said. "I do not find this excessive, and I will support it."
Williams cautioned the council that if the city continues to fall too far behind other organizations in pay, employees could start looking for jobs elsewhere.
"We are below the statewide average and far below industry," he said. "In a year or two we will face a situation where skilled employees are underpaid."
Council member Bill Frazer also spoke in favor of the increase, saying the 1 1/2 percent increase for Kenai's employees will mean about 38 cents more an hour to the average worker.
City manager Rick Ross pointed out that the employees of the city of Soldotna and the Kenai Peninsula Borough will get a 2 percent cost of living adjustment pay raise on July 1. The raises will cost the city $67,000 more a year in salary.
Bookey and Bannock cast the two dissenting votes.
In other council news:
n At the mayor's instigation, there was talk of issuing a season-long free pass to all residents of the city wishing to use the beach parking lot during the dipnet fishing season.
Bookey said he's gotten a lot of questions from residents asking why they must pay while parking there, but added he had concerns that the administrative costs wouldn't be covered.
"I would support a free or $5 pass," said council member Joe Moore. "We can pay for the administration cost by doubling the fee for out-of-towners."
Moore also suggested extending the same deal to residents who use the city boat ramp.
The city manager noted plans already were under way for this year's boating and dipnetting season and suggested looking at the plan for next year. However, Williams asked for a report "in the near future."
n The budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 was introduced. It is scheduled for a public hearing and adoption on June 7.
n The municipal code review dealing with planning and zoning regulations was set aside until the June 21 meeting. Williams said he would like more time for residents to review the changes before they are enacted.
n Introduction of the livestock ordinance the council and the Planning and Zoning Commission have been working on all spring was tabled until the June 7 meeting. It will be up for a hearing and approval on June 21. Williams said he would like more public review of the issue before action is taken.
n A one-year extension to the special-use permit for Alaska's Best Travel was granted. The company leases a space in the airport terminal.
n Another one-year extension of a special-use permit was granted to Reann Pitts, owner of the automated teller machine in the terminal. The city will receive as rent 15 percent of all transaction surcharges.
n The council authorized a transfer between budgets of $1,569 to pay for roof repairs at the recreation center. The city had budgeted $35,931 for the job, but the low bid came in at $37,500. The council awarded the job to Hanson Roofing of Kenai.
n A transfer of $1,600 was made from the airport utilities fund to the airport communications fund to cover anticipated expenses.
n The council approved the extension of its banking services agreement with National Bank of Alaska on a 6-1 vote. Williams dissented, saying that for the last 10 years he has objected to doing all the city's banking with one company.
"There are other banks," Williams said.
The agreement allows for two one-year contract extensions with NBA.
n The mayor announced the resignation of Teresa Werner-Quade from the Harbor Commission and said there may be one soon on the Airport Commission. He made no appointments, but said the search for replacements should begin soon.
n The council approved the purchase of a 49-cubic-foot refrigerator for the fire department. The $2,689 refrigerator was needed to replace a 30-year-old one that quit working a few weeks ago, said assistant fire chief Scott Walden. The new machine is 1 1/2 times larger than the old model.
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