Monday night was the first city council meeting post-election where half of the six incumbent aldermen grasped onto one of the last meetings before their service halts at year’s end. One out-going alderman, Bob Thomas, made an attempt to use his concluding time on the council to improve wages of city employees by inserting a new agenda item for consideration of a Cost of Living Adjustment for city employees.
Thomas argued that a two percent salary increase across the board was well deserved. Not having seen the 2021 preliminary budget, Thomas asked Mayor Butch Berry if it provides cost of living wage raises to the employees, and the mayor said it did not.
Thomas’s motion failed in a 3 – 2 vote, with aldermen Susan Harman, Mickey Schneider, and Melissa Greene opposed. Terry McClung was absent. Berry and Greene argued that the topic of employee raises was ill-timed as the pandemic is still threatening the basic budget without adding an increase to administrative expenses.
Greene said that hopefully in mid-year 2021, if revenue looks good council can consider a retroactive COLA back to January 1, 2021. Greene attempted to make a motion in that direction, but City Attorney Tim Weaver said that without placing exact wording regarding what constitutes revenue looking “good,” it could set the city up for a lawsuit.
Greene was not able to ascertain a more objective motion, and the second attempt for employee wage increases failed. Alderman Harry Meyer, who was in favor of the original motion of a two percent COLA, said that at least the statewide minimum wage will be increasing to $11 per hour as of January 1.
A Spay and Neuter grant resolution was approved unanimously on behalf of the Good Shepherd Humane Society who presented plans to operate a low-cost, high volume spay and neuter clinic. The resolution authorized the mayor to submit an application to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission for the purpose of securing grant $3,000 for the project.
In final news, Steve Holifield was unanimously reappointed to the Historic District Commission. Holifield, a retired Counselor of the Austin Police Department, has lived in Eureka Springs for nine years and has served on the HDC for over seven years.