Originally created 10/10/00

Pay raises get votes of council



AIKEN - Aiken City Council tentatively approved raises Monday for the mayor and mayor pro tem, plus future increases for them and all members of the council, tied to inflation rates.

None of the increases would go into effect until two or more council members take office after next year's municipal election.

It takes another vote to make the change official, and that will occur Oct. 23 after a public hearing.

The base level for city council members' pay remains at $3,000 under the proposed ordinance change, but they would become eligible for inflationary increases every two years. The mayor pro tem would get $6,000 and the mayor $9,000. Although the numbers are close to a statewide average for city officials, they've caused some consternation around town since the council began discussing raises in work sessions.

"I've had people calling me talking about giving myself a raise," Councilwoman Lessie Price said. She asked that the record reflect the raise would apply to whoever is elected in her district - not necessarily herself.

Mayor Fred B. Cavanaugh, who fought for the change, almost didn't vote on the issue to avoid a conflict of interest. He will have two years left on his term when the next municipal election rolls around.

But colleagues urged him to take a public stand. And City Attorney Gary Smith said state law says city councils can't get raises without voting on them. "That requirement removes the conflict," he said.

The council voted 5-1 for the salary increases on first reading. The sole no vote was cast by Don Sprawls.

In other action Monday, the council gave final approval to leasing space on a water tower at York Street and South Boundary Avenue to BellSouth for a telecommunications tower. The 15-year lease, with an option to renew an additional 10 years, could generate more than $337,000 for the city.

The water tower already has two other telecommunications towers on its catwalk.

BellSouth initially wanted a different location, but residents objected to that plan, in which the tower would have been highly visible. The one to be installed on the water tower will be painted to blend in and partly hidden by tree canopy.

The council also approved a proclamation making Oct. 14-21 "Zero Tolerance Litter Week." Beginning Saturday, Public Safety officers will be on the lookout for litterers to enforce the anti-litter law. Residents also will be encouraged to report the license tag numbers of people they see littering. Those people will not be charged, but they will get a letter saying they were seen and warning them what can happen if they're caught in the act.

In a work session, the council started exploring incentives to get police officers to live in Aiken neighborhoods. The city does not require its police to live inside the city limits, and many do not, City Manager Roger LeDuc said. The plan, which will likely include forgivable loans, would provide added security to neighborhoods, Mr. LeDuc said.

The city also is trying to make it possible for more officers to park their cruisers at home when off duty, reinforcing that police are present.

Another possible incentive is low-cost housing to officers who agree to live in the area.

Reach Margaret N. O'Shea at (803) 279-6895.