Published: 3:00 pm, Thu. Sep. 29th, 2016
The Artesia City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to accept a private grant to restore full pay to the community’s fi rst responders.
The grant off er was announced earlier this month after the city voted in late July to implement an across-the-board pay cut of 10 percent for city employees in the face of a dwindling budget.
During Tuesday’s meeting it was announced the full grant would restore the pay of 31 sworn police offi cers and 31 fi refi ghters/EMS personnel, as well as two librarians with the Artesia Public Library, for the remainder of the fi scal year.
The donor has asked to remain anonymous, and Mayor Phil Burch said Tuesday he was continuing to honor that request. The exact amount of the grant has also not been disclosed.
The meeting was attended by several city employees, two of whom addressed the council regarding the grant and the pay cut.
Many employees have questioned whether the council should have pressed the donor to allow the grant to be used for the restoration of a small portion of all city staff ‘s pay rather than a full restoration for a selected few. The council maintains the donor determined the terms of the grant and that it would have been hard pressed to justify turning down an off er that will aid 64 employees. The council says it is focused on eliminating the pay cut as soon as is fi nancially possible.
Employees of the water, wastewater and solid waste departments, meanwhile, attended Tuesday’s meeting to question whether their pay should continue at the 10-percent reduction now that full pay has been restored to the group indicated in the grant agreement.
Those employees say they accepted the pay cut despite the fact their salaries come from the enterprise fund supplied by residents’ water and solid waste payments and not from the general fund in order to maintain a sense of solidarity among city staff . However, they say, now that a select number of employees have been restored to full pay, they, too, should be exempt from the cut.
The city has stated the pay cut was a last resort, with line-item cuts to the budget exhausted and revenue continuing to drop. The council determined at its retreat in late July that the city would have been $4 million over budget without the cut.
In other business Tuesday, the council approved zone change ordinances from SA-2 Suburban Acreage District to MH Manufactured/Mobile Home District for the 3200 block of West Williams and Washington avenues and from SU-1 Special Use District to C Commercial Business District for 1209 W. Grand Ave. and 405 S. 13th St.
The council also ultimately approved a zone change from SA-2 to MH for 3801-3902 W.
Missouri Ave., the 3700-3800 block of West Dallas Avenue, and the 3700 block of West Washington Avenue despite concerns expressed by several residents in the area.
The residents addressed the council concerning their property values, increased traffi c, and a potential for illegal activity associated with the change. The ordinance passed, however, with Councilors Nora Sanchez and Jeff Youtsey voting no and Councilor Raul Rodriguez abstaining due to his relation to one of the residents.
The council also approved the fi nalization of the resolution on police take-home vehicles, rewording the policy to allow offi cers living between 15 and 50 miles away from the intersection of 13th and Main streets who were previously hired with the understanding they would be allowed a take-home vehicle to continue to use those vehicles as long as they are employed by the city.
All new hires must live within the 15-mile radius of 13th and Main in order to take a vehicle home.
During the personnel portion of the meeting, the council promoted Brenden Harvey to the position of fi re marshal at a pay rate of $4,841 per month.
Other hires included: Josh Whitmire, certifi ed fi refi ghter, $3,511; Joseph Battle, uncertifi ed fi refi ghter, $2,482; Gustav Quinn, uncertifi ed fi refi ghter, $2,482; Joshua Rodriguez, uncertifi ed fi refi ghter, $2,482; Ramon “Guy” Chavarria, police corporal, $4,641; Charles Campbell, solid waste equipment operator I, $2,234. Other promotions included Reydesel Flores, solid waste equipment operator I, $2,234; and Gina Ochoa, utility and cash collections supervisor.
The council also granted permission to advertise and fi ll the positions of water department supervisor and water technician, and to temporarily increase the salary of Angel Gonzales by 5 percent eff ective Oct. 15 for extra job duties as a result of the absence of a water department supervisor.
As part of its consent agenda, the council approved:
- the awarding of a construction contract bid for Artesia Municipal Airport Runway 12-30 Reconstruction Phase II to Constructors Inc.
- the acceptance of the resignation of Jennifer Estrada, water department supervisor, eff ective Oct. 14.
- permission for one police employee to attend the Child Safety Seat Clinic in Portales.
- permission for one police employee to attend the Backcountry Tactical Tracking Training Program in Artesia.
- permission for one fi re employee to attend the Fire Offi cer I course in Socorro.
- permission for one fi re employee to attend the Fire Offi cer III-IV course in San Marcos, Texas.
- a request by Ritchie Bros. Auction for a standby ambulance from 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11, for an auction to be held at 5104 W. Richardson Ave.