Some Washougal employees to receive salary increases in 2011

Mayor questions the timing of some City Council decisions

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The Washougal City Council’s recent decision to include $12,500 for the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society in the city’s 2011 budget is already having consequences, according to Mayor Sean Guard.

After funding the WCGHS for $25,000 this year, the preliminary budget for next year had included $4,000 for the no-kill shelter.

On Dec. 6, the City Council ratified a contract with the Washougal Police Officers Association that includes no pay increase in 2011, and one percent increases each in 2012 and 2013. That decision occurred following an executive session, which occurred earlier than originally scheduled.

Councilman Jon Russell had made a motion to move the executive session to before the public hearing and the council vote on the final budget.

After ratification of the police contract, City Council voted 4 to 2 in favor of a budget amendment to include $12,500 for the WCGHS. That led Councilman Dave Shoemaker to question the priorities of the council.

The agreement with the police union is expected to save the city more than $32,000 next year. The new contract, which goes into effect in January, calls for changes in the association’s medical benefits. Next year, officers will change to a medical insurance program that saves the city $14,000 in annual premiums.

A 2011 wage freeze had already been implemented for the city’s non-represented employees, and preliminary discussions had been underway with the International Association of Firefighters Local 2444 and the American Federation of State and Municipal Employees Union Local 307-W to open their contracts early before the expiration at the end of 2011.

After the Dec. 6 council meeting, members of 307-W voted to not accept a zero percent pay increase for 2011. They will receive a three percent pay increase next year, which is already stipulated in their current contracts.

The firefighters will receive a 3.5 percent increase, as listed in their contracts.

Guard said he is not disappointed with the unions.

“I certainly understand why they pulled back and why they voted it down,” he said. “It’s more of a disappointment with the way and the timing and the manner that it all came about at council. I think there are probably a few different avenues that they know they could have taken or could have taken the advice of myself and the city administrator and held off on looking at additional funding, additional programs and reinstituting some of them once we knew what a truer picture would have been or anything that would have been away from the timing of that same meeting.”

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday, at 7 p.m., in the council chambers at City Hall, 1701 “C” St.