2013-01-11 / Community

Council addresses New Year business with caution

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – The South Portland City Council came into its special workshop on Monday, Jan. 7 with the charge to decide how it would appoint a blue-ribbon committee to evaluate council compensation.

In the end, councilors decided to transfer that charge to somebody else.

South Portland City Manager Jim Gailey said staff received one quote from a human resources professional to facilitate the selection of a group of qualified residents or business owners that could objectively review council pay. That quote came from Michael Wing of Human Relations/ Labor Relations Consulting Services.

Councilors decided that Wing, rather than just facilitating the process, should solicit the committee members himself. Gailey chose to award the contract to Wing, who was the only HR professional to submit a bid. The city will pay him $110 per hour.

Councilor Patti Smith said it would be best to let Wing “devise the plan.”

“That’s why we pay that HR professional,” Smith said, “to find a representative group of people from the city and report back.”

Councilors had some questions about how Wing, who is from Yarmouth, would find qualified individuals to form the committee. However, they preferred that option to the alternative, involving themselves in a process to review their own stipends.

“I like the fact we might not be the ones picking. I just don’t know how that person goes about reaching out,” said Councilor Linda Cohen.

Mayor Tom Blake said even if Wing has some questions about the process, council and staff have time to answer those questions and still put a resolution in front of voters in November.

“We just can’t sleep on this for a couple months; we’ll lose the window,” Blake cautioned.

Discussions to review council compensation arose from the debate over the health care benefit available to councilors. The council chose to abolish the benefit in discussions over summer, but residents and councilors on both sides of the issue agreed the city would benefit from a review of councilor pay.

Currently, the seven South Portland councilors each receive a $3,000 annual stipend for their work.

In other news, the South Portland City Council was shorthanded at its meeting and special workshop on Monday, Jan. 7, but it won’t be for long.

A special election to fill the District 1 seat vacated by Tom Coward, now a Cumberland County commissioner, will be held Tuesday, March 13.

Coward was elected to the commissioner’s post in November, and officially took on that role Tuesday, Jan 1. The Jan. 7 meeting was the first he missed.

Nomination papers for the special election will be available at the city clerk’s office beginning Monday, Jan. 14 until Friday, Feb. 1. Those interested in running must acquire 100 signatures from residents to appear on the ballot.

District 1 covers a portion of the city in the eastern section that includes Bug Light Park and Willard Square. District maps are available through the city’s website. Only residents from this area of the city may run for the open seat. However, the election is open to all registered South Portland voters.

Return to top