Published: 3:21 pm, Wed. Jan. 13th, 2016Updated: 3:20 pm
The Artesia City Council hasn’t accepted an increase in pay since 2005, and the city’s governing body has chosen once again to wait a bit longer before raising its collective salary.
Under a measure proposed by Councilor Jose Aguilar at Tuesday’s meeting, council members’ salaries would have increased from their current $7,200 per year to $9,600, and the mayor’s salary from $9,600 to $24,000 per year.
This is the third time since the Fall of 2013 Aguilar has proposed the ordinance.
“I’m one of those who believes credit should be given where credit is due,” said Aguilar. “This is a real hefty position, and mayors give so much of themselves.”
Many of the councilors expressed they are content with their current pay but wouldn’t mind raising the mayor’s salary.
“At one time, I might agree with [Aguilar], especially if things were better economically, because I think the mayor is worth a little more than what he gets paid currently,” said Councilor Jeff Youtsey. “But we’ve already cut our departments by 10 percent and our outside agencies by 5 percent; I don’t think the time is right, and I think the councilors are paid well by what we do.”
Mayor Phillip Burch was also opposed to the motion and has been since it was first introduced.
“I often get asked why I do this for $800 [per month],” said Burch. “Quite frankly, I would do it for less; I have an opportunity to have a position that is important for the city because I try to get people to do better things for this city. The mayor doesn’t need $2,000 to do this job. Sure, it’s a lot of time to spend, but it’s time I personally like spending.”
Councilor Raul Rodriguez joined Aguilar in voting for the measure.
“If you really love this job, you should do it for minimal cost. However, I don’t think it’s unfair to say some people may envision becoming mayor but be turned away when they see the pay,” said Rodriguez. “When you pay $800 for this position, you’re getting what you get; I think the mayor’s position is worth more than $800.”
Also on Tuesday, Fire Chief J.D. Hummingbird announced the Artesia Fire Department is on track to receive a prestigious honor: the Liberty Mutual Firemark Award. The AFD made the list of top five fire departments in New Mexico and is now in the running for the award on a national level. Winners will be given a $10,000 donation for their departments.
“I don’t think it was too hard for the panel to decide that we were in the top five for New Mexico,” said Hummingbird.
Also, according to Hummingbird, there were a collective 107 hours of above-normal overtime served by all firefighters in the seven-day stretch following the blizzard that hit Artesia after Christmas. Police Chief Don Raley said the police department also had some overtime, but “not as dramatic as one might think.”
According to Byron Landfair, City of Artesia infrastructure director, there were a collective 279 hours of overtime in his department due to the snowstorm.
“Due to the magnitude of the storm, we had rolled our guys out of bed at 3 a.m., and they didn’t get to go back home until 12 a.m.; then we’d get them back up at 4 a.m.,” said Landfair regarding employees who cleared the streets of snow and ice.