Marietta Council pay hike OK’d

Beginning Jan. 1, 2014 and continuing through Dec. 31, 2015, Marietta City Council members will be paid a salary of $7,250 per year-a $1,750 increase over the $5,500 current council members receive, according to legislation passed during Thursday’s regular council meeting.

Councilman Michael Mullen, I-at large, explained that the filing deadline for candidates who want to run for council this year is Feb. 6, and the sitting council is tasked with determining what the next council members will be paid in 2014 and 2015.

Mullen, who chairs council’s employee relations committee, said the pay raise has no bearing on the current council.

“Also, changes that became law on Jan. 7 in the Ohio Revised Code now dictate the level of pay a public employee must receive to participate in the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS),” he said. “We need to meet those amounts if future council members are to be able to obtain monthly service credits and participate in OPERS.”

The new regulations require public employees to receive at least $600 a month in order to acquire the service credits toward retirement.

Councilman Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward, noted the salary increase-the first for Marietta’s council since 2005-was also needed to help encourage younger residents to run for a seat on council and participate in city government.

During an employee relations committee meeting Tuesday, city law director Paul Bertram III noted the rates of pay for some other Ohio city councils.

He said Athens council members will earn $7,537 in 2014 and $7,612 in 2015. The Athens council president will make $9,375 in 2014, and $9,469 in 2015.

The Zanesville council president will make $9,440 for each of the next two years, and council members there will earn $8,586 annually.

In St. Clairsville council members and the council president will be paid $4,800 a year.

Bertram said he did not believe any of those cities included health insurance coverage with their council members’ pay.

Marietta council members receive health insurance coverage, but must pay 20 percent of the monthly premium.

In other business Thursday, council authorized the administration to apply for a Recreational Trails Grant in the maximum amount of $150,000 from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and a Clean Ohio Trails Grant from ODNR for up to $500,000 to help pay for the fifth phase of the River Trail project.

Phase 5 will extend the pedestrian and bicycle pathway from Jefferson Street across Duck Creek to Cogswell Lane near the Wal-Mart complex.

Streets committee chairman Denver Abicht, D-at large, said both grant applications are due by Feb. 1 and would require a 25 percent match by the city.

Council also narrowly approved a $16,875 change order for Shelly & Sands, contractors on the 2012 citywide paving project.

The members voted 5-2 to support the measure, with Councilmen Kalter and Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, casting the dissenting votes.

Kalter, Vukovic, and Councilman Steve Thomas, D-3rd Ward, said some paving work had not been finished on streets within their wards. Thomas supported payment of the change order anyway.

Also on Thursday, council unanimously approved a resolution recommending the use of an 18-point evaluation matrix by the engineering department when seeking bids for project contracts totaling more than $50,000.

Kalter noted the engineering department has been following the matrix since June. The evaluation template was established with input from labor and non-labor businesses and organizations during several meetings on the proposal in mid-2012.

Marietta-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Jeri Knowlton also presented an overview of the agency’s efforts to bring more tourists into the local area, noting the importance of the city’s support by sharing local hotel and motel tax revenues with the CVB.

“I ask for you to continue to fund the CVB and honor our projected budget so we can aggressively and persistently promote the area as a distinctive destination,” Knowlton said.

She noted the hotel and motel tax has contributed more than $420,000 to the city’s general fund and over $365,000 to the CVB budget in 2012. Although the bed tax is split 50/50 between the city and CVB, the bureau donated some of that funding back to the city at the end of the year.