A divided Redding City Council voted Tuesday to grant hefty pay raises to two managers despite warnings from a pair of critics who said the city’s spending priorities have eroded the community’s trust.
On a 3-2 vote, with council members Gary Cadd and Brent Weaver dissenting, the council authorized a 9 percent raise, or $1,000 a month, for Kim Niemer, the director of community services, and a 4.8 percent raise, or $500 monthly, for Dennice Maxwell, the city’s finance director.
Niemer, who has 25 years of service with the city, will now be paid $141,468 a year; Maxwell’s new salary is $129,300 a year. The matter came before the council at Mayor Missy McArthur’s insistence; she reportedly said she wanted the two women’s compensation to be addressed before she vacates her council seat in December.
Councilman Gary Cadd, who lost his bid for re-election last week, opposed the raises and said the city should be tightening its belt—“and really cinch that baby down”—and begin preparing for a mountain of unfunded pension obligations. “We just can’t afford it,” Cadd said.
Vice-Mayor Brent Weaver said his opposition was not based on the two executives’ performance or character. Instead, he said, “any increase is competing with law enforcement.” He was referring to last week’s resounding defeat of Measure D, a proposed half-cent sales tax increase to fund more police and firefighter positions and increase Shasta County’s jail capacity.
“I was against this when I first heard of it before the election and now I’m even more against it,” Weaver said.
Speaking in opposition, Jason Fielding said Measure D failed because voters don’t trust the council to wisely spend taxpayers’ money. Plus, he added, “some employees are grossly overpaid.” Just as a family must live within its means, so must a local government, Fielding said. “If there’s no money for police and fire, then there’s no money for anything else as far as I’m concerned.”
Monica Frere noted that Redding’s salary for its parks and recreation director would be almost double that of the average in other cities. Plus, city managers received 2 percent raises in 2014 and 2015 and Niemer received a 5 percent raise in the spring after she absorbed the Support Services Department duties. “I’m not seeing the results commensurate with the compensation,” she said.
“You should be ashamed,” thundered Bob Reitenbach, a frequent critic of City Hall, who added that council members would be denied passage through “the pearly gates” based on their voting record.
Councilwoman Kristen Schreder cited the exemplary work put in by both Niemer and Maxwell, including award-winning financial statements, ambitious fundraising efforts to finance Enterprise Park renovations and cost-saving parks management. “You have to pay employees for the value they provide,” Schreder said.
Councilwoman Francie Sullivan noted that the city has lost five department heads during her tenure on the council and that their jobs have been divided among the remaining staff. “These are two women who go way beyond … this is not easy and it’s not popular but I’m going to support it,” Sullivan said.
McArthur said Niemer and Maxwell are essential to keeping Redding a smooth-running operation.
In other action Tuesday, the council:
Sherri Papini disappearance
--Heard an appeal from Keith Papini of Mountain Gate, whose wife, Sherri, disappeared Nov. 2 while jogging on Old Oregon Trail near the intersection of Sunrise Drive. The 34-year-old mother of two has not been heard from since.
Sherri Papini is described as a 5-foot-4 blonde woman with blue eyes who weighs 100 pounds. She was last seen wearing a pink running jacket. Her phone and ear buds were located near the intersection of Old Oregon and Sunrise.
Anyone with information is encouraged to call the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office at (530) 245-6540.
“Sherri means the world to me,” Keith Papini said after expressing his appreciation for the community’s support. Sheila Koester, Sherri’s sister, thanked the Sheriff’s Office, Shasta Support Services, Nor Cal Alliance for the Missing and the Guardian Angels for their assistance. She asked the City
Council for help with organizing an event to help spread the word of her sister’s disappearance.
“We will make that happen for you,” McArthur said. “Our prayers are with you and good luck.”
A stand against intolerance
--McArthur ventured “off script” at the start of the meeting to ask each council member to reaffirm his or her acceptance of “all religions, all colors and all walks of life.” Her emotional appeal was prompted by recent news of a Shasta High School student who was punished for handing out bogus “deportation” letters to students of varying ethnicities.
“We do not tolerate intolerance,” the mayor said.
“Prejudice of any kind is not tolerated by your leaders,” Weaver added. “The mayor and I thought it was important enough to speak out.”
Councilwoman Schreder encouraged residents to read an open letter penned by Shasta High graduate Tracy Manuel. The letter can be found here: https://goo.gl/forms/d3TPPQ3HlCEHKaNd2
Utility rate hikes
--Continued a public hearing on proposed sewage, garbage and water utility rate hikes to a special meeting at 6 p.m. Dec. 15. Three speakers addressed the council on Tuesday to oppose the increases.
As explained by Public Works Director Brian Crane, a typical household currently paying $103.43 a month for wastewater, solid waste and water utilities would see an $11.22 increase in December, followed by hikes of $4.49 in July of 2017 and $4.70 in July of 2018.
Ratepayers who opt to use smaller, 45-gallon garbage cans would pay $21.49 a month for garbage pickup, while those with 64-gallon carts would pay $22.46 and those using the current 96-gallon size carts would pay $24.04. The smaller carts are intended to encourage more recycling, Crane said.
The utility rate hikes are needed to adjust for inflation and cover the costs of an assortment of improvements and repairs to the city’s water treatment, wastewater treatment and solid waste collection equipment and facilities, Crane said.