Davis' efforts to cut 2013 appropriations nixed by common council

Efforts by Huntington Common Councilman member Greg Davis to cut appropriations in the 2013 city budget were rejected by the full council on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

That vote, however, doesn't mean that at least some of Davis' proposals won't be considered in the future.
The appropriations ordinance, a companion to the city's proposed 2013 budget, sets salaries for non-elected city employees.

In it, firefighters are allotted 14 days of pay in lieu of holiday pay. Davis proposed cutting that number to 11 days in accordance with a recommendation made in the 2010 Umbaugh evaluation of the city's finances to reduce the number of paid holidays for city employees to 11.

Councilmen Jack Slusser and Charles Chapman hesitated to single out firefighters for the cut.

"It's worth looking at," Chapman said, but not for just one group of employees.

"If we're going to do it, do them all," Slusser said.

City Attorney Mike Hartburg noted that a change in the number of paid holidays would require contract negotiation with union employees.

"We need to start somewhere," Davis said.

"I think I'd rather start with bargaining," Chapman responded.

That proposal was defeated on a 4-3 vote, with Davis, Wayne Powell and Jim Long on the losing side.

Davis' subsequent proposal to cut paid holidays for police officers from 14 to 11 died for lack of second.

A plan by Davis to eliminate longevity pay for all new hires on the Huntington Police Department also failed to elicit a second. The money spent on longevity pay, Davis argued, could instead be spent on programs to cross-train police officers and firefighters so that they could perform either job.

While Slusser argued that the city would have to pay higher salaries to cross-trained employees, Davis responded that both departments would end up with better-qualified employees. The cross training would be optional for existing employees, he said.

Additional equipment would have to be purchased, Councilman Paul Pike said, and Council President Joe Blomeke worried about cross-trained employees being able to keep up with changing regulations affecting both jobs.

Chapman, noting that the city cited by Davis as already having the cross training program, is much larger than Huntington, and additional study would be needed to see how it would work in Huntington.

Davis' proposal to eliminate the Huntington Fire Department's office manager position was rejected on a 4-3 vote. Davis said the office manager's duties were, for many years, taken care of by the chief and assistant chief. Fire Chief Tim Albertson said the position was added several years ago because of the increasing amount of required reports and other paperwork.

"I wouldn't be able to be an effective fire chief if I had to the secretary's job also," Albertson said.

Davis also failed in his attempt to eliminate additional pay for firefighters and police officers who serve as officers in charge on days when regular officers are gone.

Street Superintendent Bob Caley will receive additional pay for taking over responsibilities of the parks department superintendent, despite Davis' quest to eliminate that pay. Mayor Brooks Fetters added the extra compensation after eliminating the separate parks superintendent position.

"I believe that position is being fairly compensated without the additional," Davis argued.

Fetters responded that the additional 10 percent added to Caley's current compensation is a fair amount to cover his expanded responsibilities.

In other business, Clerk-Treasurer Christi Scher was asked to supply council members with city rules regarding keeping farm animals inside city limits.
Long made the request after learning about complaints concerning a family keeping five chickens for a child's 4-H project.

Long suggested considering changes to the rules to allow small animals such as chickens or rabbits.