In both Cedaredge and Orchard City, town officials are finding reasons to pay their planning commission members, thanks to a new state law.
Neither of the Surface Creek Valley towns wasted any time opening talks about planning commission pay following a new law taking effect July 1 that allows the practice among statutory towns.
At Cedaredge, the topic was on the planning commission’s July 1 agenda. At Orchard City, trustees hashed it over during their July 2 work session.
Members of the Cedaredge Planning Commission have been instructed by their chairman to take the next month and think carefully about whether they want to be paid for their service to the town, and to think about how much that service might be worth to them.
Some planning commission members think that paying for their services will keep their ranks filled — Cedaredge has two vacant positions, and Orchard City has had one vacancy for some time.
Orchard City trustees think that a small reimbursement for expenses of attending meetings is reasonable.
An alternative idea is to pay commission members only for meetings where public hearings are conducted.
There was no discussion at either town, and apparently no mention in the new law, of planning commissions having to do any more work to receive pay.
Orchard City Mayor Don Suppes noted that the additional cost of paying planning commission members would have to be added to the fees charged for various planning services. A fee might even be established requiring the public to pay for meetings that are needed to hear planning applications.
The Cedaredge discussions didn’t mention how the paid commission members might specifically be funded. But for government funding there is ultimately only one source — the public.
As far as numbers being talked around at the recent meetings are concerned, Cedaredge planners consider their time is worth about twice as much as Orchard City does. Cedaredge planning commission members think their meetings are worth about $25 to $35 each. In Orchard City, the numbers being tossed around were $10 to $15.
Orchard City trustee and former fire district board member Jim Boyd said the fire district board pays its members $10 for gasoline reimbursement for attending monthly meetings.
Orchard City trustees and mayor are paid $50 for every meeting they attend. “Every time we have a meeting (regular meeting, work session, special meeting) it costs the taxpayers $350,” noted Suppes.
Cedaredge is a home rule town, not a statutory one. Therefore, it has always had the option of paying planning commission members, but has not considered doing so until the recent law that allows towns like Orchard City to do so.
According to the Cedaredge town administrator, the mayor is paid $300 per month and trustees are paid $75 per month — for a total of $750.