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Politics

Veto keeps city workers' salaries the same

Officials had hoped better pay would keep employees, but the council says it's not in the budget.

By MINDY RUBENSTEIN
Published April 24, 2007


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ZEPHYRHILLS - The City Council vetoed requests Monday night for raises for some city employees, despite heartfelt pleas from department heads.

"I just think the timing seems to be off," said council President Kenneth Compton.

A slowdown in new construction has reduced impact fees and other income the city collects. But Public Works head Louie Sellars, and others, had hoped to squeeze out a little extra money to help retain good employees.

"When other cities are paying more, it makes it more difficult to keep people," Sellars said. "We just don't want to lose anyone else."

But council member Luis Lopez said he didn't want to be compared to the county.

"All we're doing is playing the game of catchup with the Joneses. They raise theirs and we raise ours. They have a bigger budget than we do," Lopez said.

Police Chief Russell Barnes spoke on behalf of five of his employees.

"This is something I've been working toward ever since my arrival here," Barnes said.

He hoped to bring the salaries more in line with what captains make in other areas and increase the gap between lower employees who put in fewer hours and have less responsibility.

Captains make about $50,000 and would have gotten an extra $2,700 a year under the proposal.

"It's not like these people are working 80 hours a week," council member Clyde Bracknell said. "It's kind of hard to swallow this information when we're trying to tighten our belts."

The city will redo its budget and look at salaries again before the next fiscal year in October. Until then, all salaries stay the same.

The city did vote to increase its budget by $2-million, up to $58.7-million, to offset the lagging construction and other budget deficiencies.

The proposed midyear budget revision will help cover a discrepancy from the city's earlier budget plans, and the money will be pulled from a contingency account into an active account.

In other news, Progress Energy continued efforts Monday night to ease concerns over its ongoing work of adding power poles and removing trees.

"You're going to see a lot of activity with us the next 10 years," said Nancy Lohr with Progress Energy. "Sometimes it's not pleasant for people."

The power company is erecting 12 miles of poles throughout the Zephyrhills community, from Dairy and Daugherty roads along County Road 54 and Eiland Boulevard to the New River Township subdivision.

A total of 147 new poles will be added as part of the ongoing project, 20 of which are within city limits.

One disgruntled Silver Oaks resident had a 110-foot pole erected near his lanai, on the easement abutting his property.

"That was a rough situation. It was right on his property line, right in his back yard," council member Danny Burgess said.

Some of the city's new poles appear to be leaning over, and the power company has received calls from concerned residents.

Progress Energy has run into some conflicts with underground wiring and must clear up those issues before securing the poles.

The new poles will help offer "better reliability with all the growth," Lohr said. The company will soon build a new power plant in Levy County.

The company will work with Zephryhills down the road to increase its conservation efforts in city buildings and homes.

Representatives may come to a future meeting to present a conservation program, and Lohr pledged to come back in the fall to talk about the power pole progress.

[Last modified April 24, 2007, 07:39:04]


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