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City split on vote for pay raises

By Staff | Apr 14, 2013

The Winnebago City Council wasn’t able to see eye to eye when it came to awarding some pay hikes.

The mayor had to cast the deciding vote after the council was split on the issue of awarding raises to the fire department.

The Winnebago Fire Department proposed a revised structure of the department, including raises and the elimination of a position.

The proposal was first brought to the Emergency Services Committee on March 25, and then referred to the City Council at the April 9 meeting.

The safety officer position would be eliminated and the position of training officer would be combined with the first captain and chief positions.

The restructure would cut $350 that would go toward training and $200 that would go toward safety.

According to the proposal, it has been at least five years since there has been a raise awarded to the fire department.

The revised structure requested salary raises for four of the positions in the department, including; chief from $900 to $2,000, assistant chief from $250 to $1,000, first captain from $200 to $600 and second captain from $200 to $300.

With the offset from the eliminated position and restructuring, the cost of the raises would be around $1,800.

“They totally deserve a raise,”?council member Jean Anderson says. “But the percentage of the raises are unbelievable.”

She went on to explain she felt, should the raises be awarded as stated, they would be setting a very high precedence.

“I think we should maybe give them bonuses to achieve this amount and raise the salaries gradually,”?Anderson adds.

Council member Rick Johnson agreed with Anderson that setting a precedence with these raises would be a concern.

“This is going to open a whole can of worms with the different departments,”?he says.

However, the other two council members saw the issue a little differently.

“We’re in a different era now with all the paperwork and behind the scenes efforts that these guys put in,”?Stacy Huntington-Scofield says. “I don’t think we should get hung up on how this may get perceived so we can act on it.”

Council member Scott Robertson was also in favor of awarding the raises.

“This is a volunteer department and with our numbers dwindling, they are doing us a great service,”?Robertson says. “I am behind them 100 percent with this.”

The motion to approve the raises was made and the vote was split. Huntington-Scofield and Robertson voted in favor and Anderson and Johnson opposed, leaving the deciding vote in Mayor Jeremiah Schutt’s hands.

“I?understand both sides of this issue but they’re doing a lot of work,”?Schutt says. “So I?vote yes.”

The motion carried by the deciding vote of the mayor.