By JASON MOON
Employees of the town of Cloverdale had to be flashing ear-to-ear grins Tuesday evening.
After receiving only a 2 percent raise last year -- and going several years prior to that with no raise -- the Town Council approved significant raises for most of the town's employees at a special session Tuesday.
Town Council President Don Sublett provided the remaining four council members with a average salary comparison study he had conducted earlier this year. The council based its raises off of the study.
Discussion of the proposed salaries, however, began with some controversy.
Sublett began Tuesday's meeting by discussing the salaries of board members, saying he had no desire to receive a raise this year.
However, board member John Davis said he believed the board members' pay should be eliminated this year, which would free up more money for the town.
Council member Judy Whitaker agreed, but fellow board members Dennis Padgett and Glenn Vickroy both believed the salary amount of $4,896 should be maintained.
"If not cut it, then perhaps suspend it for this year," Whitaker said.
"I still think we should cut it," Davis added.
Vickroy motioned to maintain the current salary for all board members, with Padgett giving the second. The board voted in favor by a 3-2 vote, with Davis and Whitaker both voting no.
Employees in the town's utility department saw possibly the most significant increase Tuesday.
Utility manager Mike Gray approached the board Tuesday with salary increase ranges for all the utility employees. However, several board members believed the increases were not enough to stay on par with other towns in the state relative to Cloverdale's size.
For example, the town's water treatment superintendent, Richard Saucerman, was making $30,600. Gray proposed an increase of $2,500 for all the employee, but Davis said he believed that wasn't enough.
Davis said he thought the salary bump should be relative to other water treatment superintendents in towns close to Cloverdale's size, saying he thought the salary range for the position should be between $36,000-$42,600, and stressing the importance of paying employees what they were worth.
The board agreed to split the difference at $38,000, voting unanimously on the measure.
In addition, the board unanimously voted to bump Gray's salary from $38,760 to $45,000, keeping him on par with other utility managers in towns relative to Cloverdale's size and again citing the importance of maintaining good employees.
The three employees in the town's clerk office each received an increase in salary of $2,500 as well, as did the officers in the Cloverdale Police Department.
On Tuesday, Police Chief Charlie Hallam said he conducted his own study of salary amounts for officers in towns relative to the size of Cloverdale and found that officers in Cloverdale were paid less than any of the 20 towns he surveyed.
After hearing the proposed increases in salary of $2,500 for each officer, including Hallam, the board voted unanimously on the measure, providing Assistant Chief Tim Walker receive more of an increase to bring his salary closer to other Assistant Chiefs in towns relative to Cloverdale's size.
Hallam told the board Tuesday he planned to apply for a grant which could help the department save money for a possible fifth officer in the future.
He added the grant could help take care of another police car and the state informed him that funds saved by the department could be earmarked for a future fifth officer.
The board also attempted to tackle the salary of Town Building Inspector Mark Cassida at Tuesday's meeting.
Sublett informed the board that Cassida had recently said he was willing to go to a 75-25 split, meaning he would receive 75 percent of money created from building inspection and the town would earn 25 percent.
Vickroy said he would prefer Cassida be put on an hourly rate. However, Whitaker said she was OK with having Cassida go to a 75-25 split, while Sublett said he believed there should also be a flat fee of $25 for special building inspections and that Cassida be paid 39 cents per mile for travel.
While the board was prepared to table the issue, Whitaker motioned that the board accept the conditions pending Cassida's approval. The board voted in favor, 4-1, with Vickroy voting against the issue.
The board meets regularly on the second Tuesday of each month at Town Hall. Its next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., Oct. 10.