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Willmar, Minn., City Council takes no action on pay hikes for mayor, council members

WILLMAR -- There will be no pay increases for Mayor Frank Yanish and Willmar City Council members next year.

Yanish and council members discussed but took no action Monday night on a proposal by Yanish to increase the mayor's salary 12.5 percent from $12,000 in 2012 to $13,500 in 2013 and 20 percent for council members from $7,500 to $9,000.

Yanish had included the increases, which total $13,500, in his 2013 proposed budget. The council will approve the budget Dec. 3.

Council and mayoral salaries were last increased Jan. 1, 2007. Salary increases must be enacted under ordinance before the next general election, explained City Clerk-Treasurer Kevin Halliday.

If the council had directed an ordinance be prepared for enacting the increases, the ordinance could have been legally published in time for a public hearing and approved by the council on Nov. 5 -- one day before the Nov. 6 general election, he explained.

However, there didn't seem to be much interest in the increase.

Council member Rick Fagerlie asked who requested the increase. "I didn't,'' he said.

Replied Yanish, "I believe it was the mayor, am I right? I think it was myself.''

Yanish said he would give his increase to charity. "But in order to attract good, honest, capable people, I'm feeling that the council desires a pay increase,'' he said.

Finance Committee Chair Denis Anderson said the committee did not make a recommendation on the increase but agreed to bring it to the full council for discussion.

"If we don't make a motion to change our salary, it stays,'' Anderson said.

Steve Ahmann said he did not run for the council for the money. Ahmann said he felt the time is not right for an increase.

Anderson said if the council does nothing, the money will be available for something else. Anderson said he was "trying to get some sense so that staff knows what way we're going here. Unless there is a motion made to change the salary by a certain amount, no action leaves the salaries where they are.''

Rather than use the increase for mayor and council salaries, the money may be used to fund a $13,000 request from the Willmar Baseball Boosters to make the final payment on the loan the organization obtained to help finance construction of Bill Taunton Stadium.

The remaining $500 would be used to increase council members' travel and conference expenses as recommended by Yanish.

The council approved a Finance Committee recommendation to add the Boosters' request to the list of contributions made by the council to community organizations.

Council member Ron Christianson suggested the council pay off the loan with $13,000 of the increase and use the remainder for travel and conferences.

Council member Bruce DeBlieck said the Boosters is one of many good organizations and community efforts asking for or receiving funds from the city and he said the council needs to look at all of them.

"We go through this every year,'' he said. "It needs to go back to the budgeting process.''

Rick Fagerlie said the Boosters did an excellent job with raising funds and providing manpower and material for the stadium. The city provided a little over $200,000, some of which was insurance money from storm-damaged bleachers.

"They stuck over $500,000 into our property. It's the city of Willmar's property. We own it. If there is a funding shortfall, take it out of WRAC 8 (reserves). We can afford $13,000 out there,'' he said.

"But we need to get this paid off so the Boosters can get back to doing volunteer work for the baseball and softball clubs and helping with other projects that need to be done on our other fields,'' he said.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150