City employees air budget concerns

Published 7:12 pm Thursday, May 27, 2010

Contributing Editor

The only people to speak at a public hearing on Washington’s proposed budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year were two city employees.
Mark Wesley, who’s worked for the city for 30 years, told the City Council that it “really turns my stomach” when it comes to “the way these budgets are being cut.” Wesley said the city must do a better job of maintaining and replacing equipment vital to providing city services to city residents and others who use city services.
Wesley said equipment is being neglected, putting the city at risk of not meeting federal and/or state standards and endangering its ability to provide services.
Wesley said the city is wasting money on projects — such as the Stewart Parkway promenade and wetland boardwalk that passes by the Moss Landing residential development — for “high-class” people.
He said the city should spend money on replacing or maintaining needed equipment and its employees before spending it on projects that benefit the rich.
Shane Lewis, a 10-year city employee, said the city should keep job maturity and merit raises for qualified city employees instead of giving all city employees a 1.5 percent across-the-board one-time bonus in the upcoming fiscal year.
At a recent meeting, Councilman Doug Mercer proposed doing away with merit and job maturity raises in the upcoming budget, with the city providing an across-the-board one-time bonus for all employees instead.
Lewis said he and other city employees who are dedicated to providing the best customer service and services to city residents and others should be encouraged and rewarded for doing that. For those city employees who take pride in their work, the city should take pride in those employees and treat them accordingly, he said.
After Wesley and Lewis spoke, Councilman Ed Moultrie said he felt their “pain and agony.”
“It’s our intention not to do you any harm,” Councilman William Pitt said.
Mayor Archie Jennings told the two employees he appreciated their remarks and that their concerns would be considered by the council.
In other business, the council decided the Historic Preservation Commission should determine if large umbrellas attached to benches on Main and Market streets should be allowed.
Recently, several such umbrellas were erected, drawing some complaints they are not appropriate.
Ross Hamory, president of the Washington Harbor District Alliance, told the council that downtown merchants want the umbrellas because they provide shade.
“It’s basically a temporary thing,” Hamory said.
He asked that the umbrellas be allowed for 90 days to “see if they work.”
Downtown merchants are willing to install and maintain the umbrellas, he said.
Mayor Pro Tempore Bobby Roberson, a former planning and development director for the city, said he “loves the idea,” but proper protocol should be followed. Instead of the council deciding the matter, proper protocol should be followed, he said. That means the matter should go to the Historic Preservation Commission for a decision.
Dee Congleton, a member of the Washington Area Historic Foundation, said the matter should be decided by the commission. Bypassing the commission and asking the council to decide the matter could set an unwanted precedent, she said.