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North Augusta votes to implement salary recommendations

Posted: July 12, 2017 - 12:46am

North Augusta City Council voted to implement the recommendations of a salary study and increase its contribution to two employee retirement plans, as required by a new state law that took effect Saturday.

It will cost the city about $515,000 for the next six months and about $825,000 for a full year. Including money from vacant positions, the current budget has about $900,000 to address the issues, Cammie Hays, finance director, told council members in a study session.

The recommendations serve two purposes, said Todd Glover, city administrator. It shows the city its employees are classified correctly by their duties and ensures it's competitive with other jurisdictions of similar size - so it doesn't lose good employees and can hire qualified workers.

The plan was done in 2016 by the Archer Company. City employees filled out detailed questionnaires about their duties and pay, and the firm compared North Augusta to its competition.

For example, Glover noted the city sometimes loses public safety officers to the security contractor at Savannah River Site, but rarely to other police departments or sheriff's offices.

Mayor Bob Pettit noted that because the city set aside money for across-the-board, three percent raises in the current budget, its employees will not see a decrease in their take-home pay even though they must also pay two percent more to the retirement funds.

The legislature raised the contribution levels of employees and employers to help fix the underfunded state plans. One covers police employees, the other covers everyone else.

Employers will pay two percentage points more starting this year, for a total of 13.56 percent for non-police employees and 16.24 percent for police officers. That contribution will rise one percentage point per year after fiscal 2018 through fiscal 2023. Employee contributions will rise to no more than a total of nine percent for non-police employees, 9.75 for police.

The study graded employees, starting at four for a sanitation worker and going up to 52 for the city administrator.

The sanitation worker's range would be $25,590 to $35,826. The city adminstrator's would be $111,593 to $156,230.

The city gives workers merit raises, too, which are tied to favorable evaluations, so an individual's actual pay could fall anywhere between the recommended minimum and maximum.

The vote was 4-0, with Bob Brooks, Fletcher Dickert and David McGhee absent.

In other action

City council:

Heard a report from Mayor Bob Pettit about a recent trip he took to Washington, D.C., to lobby local elected representatives on the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam. Pettit said he and Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis, among others, met with Sens. Johnny Isakson, David Perdue and Lindsey Graham, and Reps. Rick Allen and Joe Wilson. "The plan is to get a legislative action under way, probably in July, with the intent of rehabbing the Lock and Dam, and building a modest fish ladder," Pettit said. "All the stakeholders agree. The hope is that they can find what to them is modest amount of money, what to me is a huge amount of money - (about $20 million)." Improving the sturgeon habitat is holding up the expansion of the Savannah harbor, a factor that could work in favor of the locally proposed solution, he said.

Learned it received only one bid for asbestos removal at the current Public Safety Headquarters. The bid from Duraclean was for $52,300. The building, nearly 60 years old, has problems with water intrusion and mold. The city envisions a new headquarters building, but it is possibly four or five years away. Chief John Thomas stressed Monday night "we're at a critical point." Besides the mold, which has required closing off part of the building, there's not enough room for the department's operations. "We're bursting at the seams," Thomas said. Council did not vote because the discussion came during the pre-meeting work session, but members indicated they would act soon. "We've got to do this," said Councilman Ken McDowell.

Approved a Planning Commission recommendation to rezone about 245 acres on the west side of West Martintown Road and north of Interstate 20 to accommodate a nature preserve. The tract, owned by the Central Savannah River Land Trust had been zoned Planned Development, but was changed to Critical Areas. That will allow the Land Trust to build a picnic shelter it described as a "pole barn" in its rezoning request.


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