Chelsea makes progress with town hall Mayor, councilmembers approve pay

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Chelsea city council approved salaries for the next mayor and council during last week’s meeting.

The salaries go into effect for the next administration, following the city’s Aug. 24 election.

Chelsea’s next mayor will receive $7,200 annually, and each of the five council members, $2,400 a year.

Alabama state law requires each council to vote on salaries at least six months before city elections.

Mayor Earl Niven and Chelsea’s five city council members have served without pay since the city’s incorporation in 1996.

The council met for a work session to discuss the salary rates before voting on them. Two council members, Earl Niven Jr. and John Ritchie, opposed paying salaries.

Niven Jr. said he originally felt the mayor and council should remain unpaid, but the council struck an agreement on rates before voting.

Ritchie cast the only vote opposing salaries for the mayor and council. Mayor Niven was absent for the vote.

Ritchie, who estimated that he dedicates between 50 and 60 hours per month to his duties as city council member and chairman of the Annexation Committee, said he thought the city was still too young to begin paying the council and mayor.

&uot;I looked at the job this time as doing a service to the city,&uot; Ritchie said. &uot;We’ve just been a city for eight years. I wasn’t ready yet to start paying council members.&uot;

According to Niven Jr., the council meets twice per month for regular meetings, including about 20 minutes before each meeting to discuss the agenda. Niven Jr., who serves on Chelsea’s Fire Department Committee, said he dedicates an average of 30 to 40 hours per month to his duties as city councilman.

Niven Jr., who has two children and a wife who teaches at Chelsea Middle School, said the salaries will help compensate council members for their time.

&uot;That’s 30 or 40 hours that I’m away from my family &045; time that I don’t get to be a dad,&uot; he said.

On Monday, Ritchie said he and council member Richard Conkle are retired, while the other three council members work full-time.

Along with mayoral and council salaries, other signs of growth in Chelsea include the new city hall, set to open in May.

Chelsea city clerk Bob Wanninger said this week the $2-million, 15,000-square-foot building will serve as the city’s council chambers, administrative headquarters, library and substation for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department. The new city hall is at the corner of Shelby County highways 47 and 39.

Currently, Chelsea’s city business is conducted from borrowed space in a bank building on U.S. Highway 280.

&uot;We need more room. When I go to do more work, I do it in the library,&uot; Ritchie said