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Two Harbors council discusses salary ordinance change

Two Harbors City Council discussed the changes proposed for the salaries of mayor and council members ordinance at its meeting Monday night. Photo by Adelle Whitefoot

An ordinance change that would allow Two Harbors City Council members to be compensated for more meetings didn't sit well with some councilors Monday night.

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A motion was made by Councilman George Scheidt and seconded by Councilman Roger Simonson to approve the second reading of changes to an ordinance that would raise the number of extra meetings that a councilor would be compensated for from 62 to 124. Once discussion was opened up, the feeling from some councilors on this change wasn't positive.

"I realize that we discussed this when it was first brought forward, but after having read the information over the weekend that the attorney provided to us, I guess, needless to say, I'm having a little heartburn over the increase in pay," said Councilwoman Robin Glaser. "It seems a little excessive to me to double the salary of the council and there doesn't seem to be a way to make this fair to all of the councilors being as there's no way to monitor which committees a councilor is on or which committees a councilor may ask another councilor to attend."

In addition to twice-monthly council meetings, council members also attend special committee meetings and the board meetings of other agencies, like government agencies or nonprofits. When a councilor is unable to attend a scheduled meeting, they often ask another councilor to step in.

The ordinance would increase the number of extra meetings that a city councilor would be compensated for from 62 to 124, about doubling the salary of any councilor that attended all 124 meetings. Glaser said that she thinks that it would be more fair if the council considered increasing the base pay of all the councilors rather than just randomly increasing the number of meetings that a councilor could possibly attend.

Councilman Jerry Norberg said he doesn't consider it a pay increase because councilors are getting the same stipend that they've always gotten, but are just getting compensated for all the meetings that they are going to. Norberg explained the other side of the argument to citizens.

"I'm going to bring up the other side of the equation and this is not my motion in any way, shape or form, but there are councilors here that by definition can be on more committees than others and by the end of the year, those councilors are out of meetings from a certain point forward and then they are going to meetings without compensation," he said. "You can put a number on anything, but I don't think that anybody is going to go to 124 meetings. That's 10 a month. But I also know that there have been councilors in this room that have been out of meetings in July with negotiations coming up."

Glaser responded by saying that in years past, people that have been assigned to negotiations or the budget committee were then compensated via a resolution of the council. She said she thinks that would be a more fair way to compensate councilors for extra meetings over the current limit.

"So I think there are other ways to compensate councilors then just putting a random number of meetings out there for everyone to partake in," Glaser said. "I'm looking at this in a standpoint for not just this particular council but for councils in the future and I just see this as a way for perhaps councilors taking advantage of the taxpayers."

Councilwoman Cathy Erickson said she had similar feelings to Glaser and would entertain a smaller amount of the number of meetings that can be attended or to reduce the amount of the stipend per meeting. Both Councilmen Seth McDonald and Roger Simonson said that they believe there is a compromise out there that more councilors could get on board with.

At that point in the meeting, Scheidt rescinded his motion and Norberg encouraged the councilors to bring ideas to the table at the next finance/agenda meeting on Sept. 22.

In other news:

- The council unanimously approved a policy that gives the airport manager the power to on occasion go around and inspect tenant rented hangars for lease issues as well as maintenance issues. According to McDonald, the policy would be mailed ahead of time to the renters and a timeframe where people can meet with the airport manager in person, and if that is not done in that timeframe then the manager would be allowed to do the inspection on his own.

- The council unanimously approved a bid for the amount of $119,849 to resurface Sixth Street from Seventh Avenue to 10th Avenue; Seventh Street from Seventh Avenue to 10th Avenue; the 300 block of First Avenue; and three alleys that are currently concrete and will be changed back to gravel.

Adelle Whitefoot

Adelle Whitefoot is a Michigan native who moved to Minnesota in Sept. 2014 when she started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. She graduated from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich., in 2012 with a bachelor's in English writing and has been a professional photographer since 2011. Whitefoot is the night general assignments reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. 

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