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Published: Wednesday, 12/13/2006

Delta pay talk unsettles some workers

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

DELTA - Delta Village Council, which for weeks has been discussing raises or bonuses for employees - including one proposal that would give bonuses of up to $1,000 to some and nothing extra to others - might be leading some employees to look for new jobs, according to the police chief.

"When there is conflict over whether or not there is money to support employee raises it breeds distrust and negatively impacts the morale of the employees," Chief Garry Chamberlin wrote in a three-page letter to council last week.

He urged council to consider the thousands of dollars it would spend to train new police officers if current officers leave, feeling "betrayed by the very community leaders who hired them and made a commitment to provide a reasonable livelihood in return for their commitment to provide professional police service to the citizens of the community."

Council, which only briefly broached the question of raises or bonuses at Monday's committee of the whole meeting, is expected to discuss it again Monday when Councilman Paul Fournier said he will move for adoption of his proposal for bonuses.

That proposal calls for a one-time bonus of about $500 for many employees, including some hourly employees who councilmen said have received merit raises from their supervisors this fall. But the plan includes a wide range. The police chief and street superintendent would each get $1,000, for instance. And the village administrator and the water and sewer superintendent would get nothing.

The village administrator is retiring early in the year and will get a significant payment for vacation days, Mr. Fournier said. He declined to say why he did not propose a bonus for the water and sewer superintendent.

But he explained that he likes the idea of bonuses because they are a one-time expense, whereas a raise would cost the village extra from here on out.

Councilman Keith Lantz said he also prefers bonuses to raises because bonuses would be for an exact amount, while increasing hourly wages would affect overtime hours as well and thus it would be harder for council to predict just how much such raises would cost the village.

He would like, he said, to wait until council has a new village administrator on the job and let that person develop a proposal for changes throughout Delta's wage scales. Giving hefty raises now, he said, would not leave enough funds for the new administrator to make changes with later.

"Our budget's pretty tight in my opinion," Mr. Lantz said, adding that he was worried about the loss of jobs at plants in Archbold, Wauseon, and the greater Toledo area that employ Delta residents. He said the village is raising water and sewer rates and he doesn't want to ask for more funds from local residents.

Mr. Fournier's bonus plan, however, has drawn mixed opinions. Unlike Mr. Lantz, Village Administrator Gary Baker says the village coffers have enough money for raises.

Councilman Marcy LeFevre said she liked Mr. Fournier's bonus plan and that she hoped to give employees something extra now and make more changes after a new administrator is settled in. But Councilmen Rose Butz and Dan Miller said they found the bonus proposal pricey.

Mr. Miller wants to hold village expenses down because he fears more costly regulations for the village's water and sewer systems coming from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, he said. He added he'd like to reduce village income taxes for Delta residents who are also paying local income taxes in the municipalities where they work. Until several years ago, the village gave residents who worked elsewhere a credit for the income tax they paid there. Mr. Miller had opposed the elimination of that credit.

If council does not reinstate that credit next year, Mr. Miller said he would favor taking the question directly to voters.

Contact Jane Schmucker at: jschmucker@theblade.com

or 419-337-7780.



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