Utility Commission cuts axed

Mary Ann Kearns - mkea[email protected]
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The Maysville Utility Commission lives to fight another day.

Despite several efforts over the past few years to either disband the commission or cut or eliminate pay for the members, the commission remains intact, albeit with diminished authority. And its pay level remains intact.

The city absorbed the utility commission as a department about a year ago. While discussion was held early on to dissolve the board, city commissioners finally settled on keeping the board in an advisory position.

While there are several boards who serve in an advisory capacity to the city, the utility commission is one of only two paid routinely for its work, according to information provided at that time by Maysville City Manager Matt Wallingford. Utility commissioners are paid $300 monthly or $3,600 annually. Members of the Housing Authority of Maysville board are paid $650 a year, he said, and members of the planning commission are paid $50 for each special meeting they attend.

Members of the utility commission include Chairman Dick Butler, Scott Smalley, Kirk Clarke, Toms Sims and Larry Poe.

In June, during budget cutting measures, city commissioners agreed to cut utility commissioners from $300 per month to $150 per month.

During the first reading of the proposal, commissioners were split on the issue with Commissioner Victor McKay and Commissioner Judy Pfeffer voting in favor and Commissioner Kelly Ashley and Commissioner Jerry Schumacher voting against the issue with Mayor David Cartmell voting in favor of the cut. This time around, despite the lack of discussion on the issue, all commissioners voted against the proposal with only Cartmell voting in favor.

McKay, who changed his vote from in favor of the pay cut to against the proposal, said Wednesday he originally agreed to the cut because of budget constraints.

“When we first met (on budget) it was tight,” he said. “No pay raises were proposed.”

McKay and Pfeffer both said they even discussed cutting their own salaries by 10-15 percent before learning they were prohibited by law from doing that near an election.

When it became apparent to him that the budget wasn’t as tight as originally projected, McKay said he decided he would vote in favor of keeping the current salary for utility commissioners.

Pfeffer also cited budget cuts as the reason behind her initial vote in favor of the pay cut.

Although the issue did not prompt any discussion at Tuesday’s meeting, both McKay and Pfeffer said the issue has been discussed at length in the past. Pfeffer also said she had been contacted by members of the utility commission who made their case for maintaining the pay.

While cutting the commissioners’ pay would only save about $9,000 a year, Pfeffer said the proposal caused a lot of hard feelings as it made board members feel like their time was being devalued.

“It was causing bad feelings with board members who do a good job,” she said.

Utility Commission Board Chairman Dickie Butler said the board was always aware that it worked under the jurisdiction of city commission which had the final vote on any decision.

Butler noted that the utility department is on the only city department which generates revenue. Even so, he said, utility commissioners worked to keep rates competitive and to keep city commissioners up-to-date on developments and financials within the department. The two have worked together to operate the utility commission, he said.

“To have a successful utility department it’s taken both of us,” he said.

Whatever the outcome would have been on the vote, Butler said none of the utility commissions were angry.

“We just defended out ability to run the commission,” he said.

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Mary Ann Kearns

[email protected]