Georgetown City employees will receive a 1.9% raise and not have to pay any more for their insurance after the city council passed the 2019-20 budget last week.

All council members approved the budget, but Councilwoman Karen Tingle-Sames did question why the raises were not more in light of earlier personnel moves Mayor Tom Prather made in naming Andrew Hartley City Administrative Officer.

“If the employees are getting 1.9% percent raises including benefits, how much was 3%?” Tingle-Sames asked. It is usually around $350,000 to $400,000, Finance Director Stacey Clark said.

Mayor Tom Prather said they would have liked to have continued giving 3% raises which they have done for the last four years.

“It’s hard to swallow that because in February we approved a position that in the budget, with benefits, is $190,000 and that is where a big part of their raises went,” Tingle-Sames said.

“That is not correct mathematically. When we did that budget amendment for half of the year, the budget impact on the second half was $16,000. For the full year, it is $32,000,” Prather said. “That is not enough to have effected raises for the rest of the employees. So the statement that the salary cost the employees raises is not accurate.”

Tingle-Sames would have liked to have analyzed the CAO salary which is $50,000, including benefits, more than anyone makes, she said.

“I would have gone longer with giving employees raises because I think the time is coming when we won’t be able to give employees raises,” she said. “I asked at the time why you didn’t wait to do it at this time, and I think I know why now because you couldn’t give large raises.”

“Karen you are giving a narrative about me that isn’t true,” Prather said. “I will say it again, $32,000 is not going to affect employees’ raises.”

Councilman Mark Showalter asked if any of the increased insurance costs were passed on to employees.

No insurance costs were passed on to employees and the city absorbed the average $2,400 per employee insurance increase, Clark said. Most employees and their families use the city insurance plan, she said.

Councilman David Lusby said when you look at how much the insurance went up, vehicles replaced and other things, he thought the budget was justifiable in light of the fact net profits didn’t meet budget.

“I think we are going to, in another two years, going to have an extremely tight budget,” Tingle-Sames said. Lusby wanted to know why she felt that way, and she said the city relies so much of its budget on one company — Toyota.

“I think the economy will cycle and dip,” she said. “Hopefully I’m wrong.”

Lusby said the fact the city absorbed the insurance costs is huge.

Councilmen Marvin Thompson and Showalter thanked Clark, saying her budgets almost always come in on target and felt comfortable voting for it.

“Stacey and I both think after a couple of rough business cycles and then we’ll be able to bring a budget that has more things in it,” Prather said.

“You can’t have it good all the time, so you have to manage it,” Thompson said.

Prather and Georgetown Municipal Water & Sewer Service General Manager Chase Azevedo both addressed the sewage spill that occurred over the Memorial Day holiday weekend and the water line break that forced some downtown businesses to close, including Galvin’s.

The total amount of sewage leakage was a little less than reported, but nevertheless called it a significant spillage into the Elkhorn, the mayor said.

“Pipes break. And when you look at pictures of the pipe, it was split right on the side,” Prather said. “I was pleased that within two hours of pinpointing where the leak was, they had it fixed. They knew there was a leak, but it took a number of hours to pinpoint. They had it shut off and rerouted in less than two hours.”

All the rain has done its job and flushed the spill out, but from a perception point of view, decided it best to postpone the Elkhorn Floatfest on June 8, he said.

“We also had a significant water line break downtown Georgetown,” he said. “When the water company began the repair on Main Street, the plan was to repair the existing pipe. But when they got down there, it was going to take more to replace it. It did shut off water to some on Main Street, including a popular restaurant. We have addressed that the best way we can, but infrastructure breaks and do the best we can.”

“I could not have been more proud of the operations staff on handling the sewer flow from determining the leak and isolating it,” Azevedo said. “Sometimes it is hard to know where a leak is and this time we were able to isolate it and repair it.

“I know we caused some hardship for local businesses there that lost service. We are doing an analysis and see what we could have done better. I am pleased with staff, but the biggest downfall there was communication. Unfortunately, the repair was bigger than originally thought.”

In other business, the council:

— Approved a request from American Legion Post 24 to close off South Water Street for the Post’s post-parade party from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The post’s 100th birthday celebration will be held in the park with free hot dogs and other activities. The city’s public works department will mow, run the street sweeper and trim and mow to “spruce up the park for the day,” Prather said.

— Awarded contract for work on East Main. It is a 45-day contract, and crews will be working weekends so it can be completed by the time school starts.

— Approved accepting a crumb rubber grant to be used at the Kendyl and Friends playground. The grant is for $61,920 with a 25% match by the city.

— Matthew Marshall with the Georgetown Fire Department made the council aware of Safety Day on July 6, at the county park.

— The Horsey Hundred drew about 3,000 people this year representing nearly 30 states.

— Approval of street lights to be put along Delaplain.

Steve McClain can be reached at smcclain@news-graphic.com.

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