Pelham enacts new employee pay scale

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The Pelham City Council voted narrowly to enact a new pay scale for city employees during a special-called meeting Oct. 5.

The council voted 3-2 to pass an 18-grade, 18-step pay scale, which begins at $24,041 at pay grade 1, step 1 and ends at $145,683 at pay grade 18, step 18. Each step represents a 2 percent pay raise.

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

The new pay plan came more than a year after council members reviewed the findings of a city salary study completed by the Mercer company. The new pay plan is comparable to the pay plans offered by similar cities, council members said previously.

In order to make Pelham’s current employees fit in the new pay scale, the council had to add an additional $67,000 to its 2011 budget. Dickens said no current employees took a pay cut as a result of the new pay scale, and some received as much as a $1,666 raise as a result.

Employees who currently make more than $145,683 are considered “off the grid,” and will not be eligible for merit raises. However, they will be eligible for cost of living raises.

“Not one current city employee loses anything. Nobody lost a dime,” Dickens said.

Powell said the new pay plan contrasts with the city’s personnel law, and said enacting the plan would be “outside (his) comfort level.”

Powell said the personnel law requires the city to group job classes together based on difficulty, responsibility and qualifications, and requires the city to have specific descriptions of the job classifications.

“I know that the Mercer study took the number of job classes we have and reduced it. By nature, some of our current job classes are going to change,” Powell said. “Those changes are not listed in this proposal.”

Powell also said the city had not distributed the new pay scale information to department heads, and had not allowed department heads and employees to voice their opinion on the new pay scale before it was passed.

Powell said he was notified of the special meeting the night of Oct. 4, and said he did not receive an agenda until a few hours before the meeting.

“Not one time did I get a call asking about my availability,” Powell said.

Dickens said proper notice was published for the meeting, and said no council members received calls beforehand.

Dickens said the new pay plan does “not circumvent any law,” and said the pay plan had been reviewed by the city attorney.

“We are completing the most important thing, and that is dealing with our current employees. Now, we can move on to step two, which is new employees,” Dickens said. “Anyone hired after today will be hired under the new system.

In other business, the council did not address granting a liquor license to McDuff’s pub and grill. Although the item was tabled during the council’s Oct. 3 meeting and was on the agenda for the special meeting, no council members made a motion to bring it off the table.

During the council’s Oct. 3 meeting, Pelham Police Chief Tommy Thomas told council members McDuff’s owner Michael Overton did not properly fill out the ABC application when he applied for the license. Powell also said Overton did not furnish a required certificate of occupancy in the application.

Meadows said the council will address the issue during its Oct. 17 meeting to allow more time for “communication” between the agencies involved in Overton’s application.