Danville officials want people to hear good news about the city

Published 6:16 pm Friday, December 14, 2018

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of stories highlighting goals and objectives discussed during a recent Danville City Commission/management team retreat held.

Danville residents could be made more aware of positive news about the city, according to comments during the city commission’s annual retreat, held at Centre College Wednesday. The city’s newsletter might be the way to do that, officials suggested — City Attorney Stephen Dexter said the newsletter allows city officials to “write your own headlines.”

A list of achievements included the new ladder truck purchased; acquisition of land for the new downtown fire station; additional improvements to Weisiger Park; and the nearing completion of the city’s energy efficiency improvements to all its properties, to name a few.

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Commissioner J.H. Atkins asked if he could add one to the list: The $1 raise some employees received in the city.

Atkins said at a recent social function, a couple reminded him that he voted for the commission’s salary increase. Earlier in the year, the commission voted in an ordinance raising the mayor and commissioners’ salaries by 50 percent; it increased Perros’ salary from $10,272.96 to $15,409.44 and the salaries for commissioners from $6,056.04 to $9,084.06.

Atkins said he told his constituent yes, he did vote for it.

“She asked me if there’s anything I wanted to share with her when it comes to money about the city,” Atkins said. “I said by the way, do you remember we gave all the city employees a $1 pay raise? But guess what: Neither of them knew anything about that. I told her there were some stipulations (time worked for the city, etc.) but probably … 85 percent of them got a pay raise. We need to make sure the community realizes that.”

After Atkins’ spoke about the constituent’s comment on the raise for elected officials, Commissioner Denise Terry asked him, “What was she looking for when she asked you that question?”

“She was looking for me to apologize to her for voting for the salary increase (for mayor and commissioners). And I did,” Atkins said.

The raises the city commission voted for in the spring do not take effect until Jan. 1 for the next elected mayor and commission members. City Manager Ron Scott, who originally brought the commission and mayoral raise recommendation forth, noted this and the fact that the mayor and all four commissioners won re-election (Mayor Mike Perros ran unopposed).

“There hadn’t been any adjustments made for years, no cost of living adjustments for the city commission either. It was overdue, in my opinion,” Scott said.

Atkins said, “My point is that’s OK. I said, ‘Ma’am, I live with that every day, and I apologize for you,’” but he wanted everyone in the community to know about the employee raises which were also voted in.

Scott said the employee raises cost $425,000 annually. “It wasn’t insignificant,” he said.

Terry added, “And that’s just the dollar. Doesn’t include what happens with the benefits on top of that.”

The total cost of the elected officials’ raises will be $17,248.56 annually.

‘Toot your own horn’

Earlier in the meeting, kudos were given to Scott for implementing the quarterly city newsletter. Caudill said he’d heard many compliments about it.

“We have to thank Ron (Scott) for that. It was a suggestion that was wholeheartedly embraced,” Perros said. He said the newsletter “takes a lot of work” and extra time, which Scott doesn’t have much of.

“In the spirit of education and dialogue, I think that’s helped our constituents,” Perros said.

After Atkins brought up the issue of what he perceived as the community not knowing about employee raises, City Attorney Stephen Dexter brought back up the newsletter.

“I don’t know if any of these are part of your winter newsletter, but that’s the kind of information that would be critically important, otherwise people don’t know,” Dexter said. “This is a chance to write your own headlines. And that $1 raise for 85 percent … some will glance at the newsletter, some will read all of it. But if they see the top achievements, I think that could be a reoccurring section, really, that would really toot your own horn and say, ‘This is what your city is doing for you.’”

The article “Danville giving $1/hour raises to some employees” printed July 10 in The Advocate-Messenger, outlining what types of employees would receive raises. An article about the increase voted in for the mayor and city commissioners printed in the newspaper in April. Following the vote and the newspaper article, police officers and firefighters attended a city commission meeting and spoke during the “hear the public” agenda item, asking if they would receive the same treatment.

Other 2018 top achievements

Scott listed the update of 911 services achieved this year, which included an agreement signed by all users; next generation equipment installed; implementation of emergency medical dispatch (EMD) and improved mobile tracking/computer aided dispatch; and other related issues, like compensation for part-time EMD dispatchers.

“The complexities involved in that” were immense, Scott said.

Almost all of the energy efficiency improvements to all city properties have been completed, Scott said, which eventually “will offset the cost of making the improvements.”

“Another general achievement, sort of at the 12th hour, was to get the state legislature to put into budget the $1.2 million to deal with the planning of a needed road, the so-called interconnect road, into the six-year plan,” Scott said. He said it was achieved through cooperation with Centre College and county government.

“And our state representative really carried the ball on that,” Perros said, referring to Rep. Daniel Elliott.

After going through the list, Scott said it doesn’t even include “the challenge of providing ongoing services in all of our departments with staffing challenges, revenue constraints and all the things we’ve kind of been dealing with in the past few years. I think we’ve achieved really good outcomes.”

Other achievements discussed include a second National Citizens Survey, completed in April; and the implementation of self-funded medical coverage for city employees and their dependents.