The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Council gives city manager a raise


Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG

Jim Hunt (right), Seward City Manager, pays attention to a citizen complaint at the Jan. 27 city council meeting that concluded with his yearly performance evaluation.

The Seward City Council went into executive session at last month's Jan. 27 meeting to conduct City Manager Jim Hunt's annual evaluation. Hunt received high enough marks to earn him a unanimous vote for a $4252 annual raise at Monday's meeting. The amount which includes the cost to the city of benefits, includes an hourly wage bump from $50.48 to $52. When Councilor Christy Terry probed Hunt on the effective date of Feb. 10, Hunt declined to answer as to why he didn't request the raise retroactive to Jan. 1.

Council also voted unanimously, without amendment, to accept funds from the Alaska Energy Authority for additional expenditures on the city's electrical warehouse project to the tune of another $2 million. State funding of the project now stands at $6 million. Plans and budgeting for the project have consistently been expanded and revised upward, raising questions from council members including, most notably, Christy Terry. She reiterated her standing request to see documentation for the project as it continues to develop.

When queried by Terry, Electric Department head John Foutz explained that funds to this point were spent for the warehouse construction but shortfalls and additional required task items, including generator relocation, drove the need for an amendment to the original grant. Apparently AEA agrees and the city electric utility now has another couple million to spend on the project. Some of the project work is being performed by city workers, and when asked, Foutz explained that wages would be paid out of grant funds for any such activity.

Another vehicle will be replaced in the city's fleet of pickup trucks, joining the new Dodge now parked in the city manager's space. The existing Chevy flatbed equipped with a crane, used by the Harbor Department, is set for surplus sale to the public, making way for a Ford F350.

A substantial length of the council session was tied up in Seward Community Health Center issues including if, how and when city expenses will be reimbursed by the new community health clinic. Finance Department head Kris Erchinger said that she does not contemplate any immediate new hires as her staff takes on handling accounting for the new SCHC staff. The present additional workload can be handled through overtime, said Erchinger, but regular billing and payroll will require additional resources, likely including hiring for the position recently vacated by Kim Kowalski-Rogers.

Erchinger also explained that due to the fact that the SCHC will run in the red for its first year and likely its second also, charging the clinic against subsidies by the city already approved for by council would just add extra work. She said that costs of services will be recorded, but reimbursement and methods is for the council to decide. Councilor Terry offered an amendment to resolution 2014-017, which relates to city administrative support to the new clinic, to forbid the city from hiring any new employees to accommodate SCHC workload.

The amendment was approved with counciler Dave Squires voting no. The resolution was then unanimously passed, paving the way for city to provide administrative and support services to SCHC for up to three years.

Coordinator Dawn McDevitt of the Seaview Community Services Domestic Violence Sexual Assault program gave a report wherein she predicted that, at the rate the program is growing, funding is not adequate to provide safe haven for victims of abuse. The program has struggled with a vacancy, which happened during 2012 and lasted several months, in the single position assigned to administer the program. Since McDevitt came aboard, the already existing need for program services has converged with rising awareness among victims that there is a local program.

McDevitt explained that the program was originally founded in the belief that victims and their children should be able to remain at home and not be displaced. However, with rising costs of living, this approach is more difficult in terms of maintaining a home. Without a local shelter, victims have to make use of alternatives such as hotel rooms or volunteered homes which become rare commodities during the summer season.

In some cases, extended protection may require a transfer out of town. Faced with dislocation out of Seward, the outcome is that often victims opt to stay in abusive situations. McDevitt says she is working toward a next stage of the program which will involve establishment of a local full time shelter or shelter facilities.

Feb 14, 2013 LOG story: Council approves city manager's pay bump


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