In close vote, Fairway council decides to keep paying itself stipends

The item that got the most discussion on the Fairway city council’s monthly meeting agenda last night turned out to be the Fairway city council.

Council member J. Stuart Hoffman introduced a resolution that would have suspended the stipends of the council and the mayor through the end of 2010 with the intention that the money saved be used to pay end-of-the-year bonuses to city staff, who have had their pay rates frozen on account of the city’s economic woes.

Each council member receives a $150 monthly stipend for his or her service. The mayor receives $300 a month.

Council member Dane Lee led the charge against the resolution, saying that he had a “philosophical problem with the city council solely being asked to take on this burden.”

Lee said he had run some calculations and figured that he was paid less than $3 an hour for his service to on the council.

“What it sends is a bad message,” Lee said. “The city’s budget is the responsibility of the entire city, not just the eight members of this council.”

Council member Ky Weekley, who participated in the meeting via telephone, countered that giving up the stipends would be a small sacrifice to help show appreciation for the city staff — who, he pointed out, the council had identified as one of the city’s greatest strengths at a strategic planning meeting a few weeks ago.

“It is beyond my comprehension how [the stipend] is important enough to any of us that we wouldn’t be willing to use it to take this action to support the staff,” Weekley said.

But council member Melanie Hepperly said she didn’t feel that the city staff were being unfairly compensated, and that many private-sector workers have been forced to deal with wage freezes in this current economic climate.

“I strongly feel we have a top notch, quality staff,” Hepperly said. “But I do think they are adequately compensated.”

Council members Tony Liu, Ky Weekley, Jeff Armstrong and Stuart Hoffman voted in favor of suspending the council stipends. Lee, Jim Poplinger, Hepperly and Gail Gregory voted against the measure, with Mayor Jerry Wiley’s no vote deciding the issue.

“I want to clearly entertain that we could reintroduce this at any time,” Wiley said.