Pelham narrowly passes new employee payment plan

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The Pelham City Council voted 3-2 to instate a new city employee compensation plan during its June 6 meeting, which will affect some current employees and all new employees hired after Oct. 1, 2011.

Council President Mike Dickens, Councilwoman Teresa Nichols and Councilman Bill Meadows voted in favor of instating the new compensation plan, and Councilman Steve Powell and Councilwoman Karyl Rice voted against.

The vote came about 10 months after the council reviewed the findings of a salary study completed by the Mercer company. By accepting certain parts of the salary study, the city will begin using an 18-grade pay scale with 12 steps per grade for all Pelham employees on Oct. 1.

Most current Pelham employees will remain at their current salaries when the new compensation plan goes into effect, but some may see pay raises as a result of the new pay structure, Dickens said.

“This will not negatively affect any current employee. Nobody is getting a pay cut. Nobody is losing their job,” Dickens said. “A lot of people will benefit from this.”

However, the new compensation plan will also enact a new pay rate scenario for employees hired after Oct. 1, as the council approved a pay scale about 18 percent lower than the city’s current pay scale.

The new pay scale is about equal to the salaries offered by cities comparable to Pelham, council members said previously.

“Who this will really impact is new hires. I don’t have an issue with that,” Dickens said.

Nichols said she was in favor of approving the new compensation plan so the city could work toward implementing it by Oct. 1.

However, Powell said he was against enacting the new compensation plan, and said he would like to see more research done before voting it up or down.

“In August (2010), we said we would seek feedback from several key people and department heads. We have not created an opportunity to meet with those we promised we would meet with,” Powell said, shortly before his motion to table the matter failed on a 3-2 vote.

Powell also said the new compensation plan could conflict with parts of the current Pelham civil service law, and said he was unsure how the new pay plan would affect the city economically.

Former Pelham fire chief and mayoral candidate Gary Waters said enacting a lower pay plan for employees hired after Oct. 1 “pretty much undid” work done by former Pelham mayor Bobby Hayes.

Waters said Hayes and his administration agreed in the 1980s to provide above-average compensation for Pelham employees in order to ensure “the city didn’t become a training ground for other municipalities.”

“In the short term, all this does is (tick) off new city employees,” Waters said. “The best and brightest will not come to Pelham for an average salary.

“You have started a slow degradation of the services the citizens of the city of Pelham have come to expect,” Waters said.