Paonia trustees pass town's first pay plan

By Tamie Meck


In what Paonia town manager Jane Berry described as a "very, very positive tool for managing, working with and rewarding (town) employees," the board of trustees adopted the "Town of Paonia Pay Plan."

The resolution implements a document outlining job classification and compensation pay ranges, based on salaries paid by towns of similar size and according to position title, pay grade and pay range. The document is believed to be the first of its kind in town history.

Trustee Suzanne Watson cast the dissenting vote, calling the vote "hasty" and citing insufficient time for trustees or the public to review the information. Trustees were given the information at the Dec. 29 special meeting, and the document was discussed at that and the Dec. 8 meetings.

Bill Brunner, who spoke during public comment, said he also believes the board should take things slower. "It has the appearance of rubber-stamping," said Brunner. "The law does not encourage haste."

Added Brunner, "While it's a laudable goal, an extra couple of weeks wouldn't be too fast."

The document enables administration and department heads to create incentives, reward accomplishments, and establish training programs and career paths for both full- and part-time employees. In the past, raises and promotions were "completely arbitrary, from what I can see," said trustee David Bradford. "I think it's an excellent move."

Employees will no longer receive across-the-board pay raises, said Berry. "All raises, from this time forward, are performance-based," and will consider the employee's ability to obtain special certifications, contributions to the town, and other factors.

In other discussions, town investigator Neil Ferguson was asked about the 36 code violations documented in the December police report. Most were for failure to remove snow from sidewalks or for vehicles parked on streets that hinder removal efforts and create safety hazards. Vehicle owners are generally given 72 hours to move and clear snow from around vehicles before they are towed at owner expense, said Ferguson.

In response to a question from Brunner, Ferguson said property owners, including seasonal residents, are given ample warning before being issued a citation. If an attempt to contact the property owner is unsuccessful, the property is red-tagged.

"We try to give them every means that we can so that ... they don't have to get a citation right off the bat," said Ferguson. If snow is still not removed after 72 hours, the property owner will receive a citation and a fine of $150.

Trustee Bradford reminded the public that failing to remove snow creates safety issues for citizens and that other issues, including mechanical problems with town vehicles, have hindered efforts.

Ferguson also reported that the department's draft policies and procedures are complete. The documents are not public due to security and other issues. They aid in training by spelling out how officers can respond to certain situations, assist in solving internal issues, and protect the department from lawsuits, said Ferguson.

The Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency (CIRSA -- the town's municipal insurer) gave direction for bringing the department into compliance with its policies, said town manager Jane Berry. That impacts the town's annual insurance review ratings and can lower insurance costs.

The town also reminds pet owners to register their dogs with the town. Cost for a tag is $5. Stray dogs picked up will not be returned to their owners until they are licensed. Last year, 80 licenses were issued, which is down from previous years. "I think there's more than 80 dogs in town," said Bradford. It might be a good reminder for people to get their dogs licensed."

The town also recently discovered a set of sidewalk specifications, which the town commissioned by current Hotchkiss town engineer Joanne Fagan in 2001. The document was adopted by the town, but never codified. "We have this to use as a guideline when we put out bids," said Bradford.

Public works committee member Ross King and Bradford will begin strategizing on how to handle ongoing sidewalk repair and replacement where trees are involved. "I'm just bringing that up again," said Bradford, so that the public is aware of discussion. "Everybody's got a heads up."

Anyone interested in the issue "should express their concerns to be involved," added Bradford.