Local News: Increased City Council Approvals for Berry, Armstrong (3/31/22)

New salaries for the Mayor and Secretary-Treasurer of Eureka Springs are finally set.

And both will be substantial increases over what those officials currently earn.

The Eureka Springs City Council voted 5-1 on two separate motions at its March 28 meeting to raise Mayor Butch Berry’s salary from $18,000 to $48,000 and City Clerk Ann Armstrong’s salary from $30. $500 to $48,000.

Both increases will take effect 30 days after their approval.

Most council members felt the increases not only represented the amount of work the two officials were doing for a town fueled by tourism, but would also help attract qualified candidates in the future.

“It’s not about Butch, to me. This raise is about our future,” city council member Melissa Greene said when discussing Berry’s salary. “It’s about attracting people who want to do a good job.

“There is so much going on here. It’s not a figurehead, it’s a job. And we have so much to come, so much to do. We need good people sitting in this office.

Both pay increases were approved after comments from council members who said full-time elected roles are vital in a city that is far from unique among others with similar populations in the state.

“This town isn’t necessarily about population, it’s about tourism,” council member Nick Roberts said. “We have 25,000 people here on [many] weekends. I think we have to take this into account to match [salaries] in a city of at least 10,000 people, or that the work being done is comparative.

Council member Terry McClung was the lone dissenter in both votes, citing numerous current and upcoming projects the city is involved in that are costly.

“I think something we’re forgetting here is that we’ve taken on some personal expenses this year that aren’t common for us,” McClung said. “With the Auditorium repairs, public works, and not that these things aren’t necessary, but they are huge and out of pocket.

“I think we’re going to make this worse…and frankly, it bothers me that we’re on a real spending trend. I’m a little uncertain about the future and just want to urge you to be cautious.

Councilman Harry Meyer, however, said the approved increases would hardly affect the city’s budget.

“We have expected revenues of over $12 million, and our budget so far is $11.5 million and the Aud is being paid by the [City Advertising and Promotion Commission]”The city covered, like the elevator, but CAPC is reimbursing the city for it and I think that’s how it’s going to be since CAPC decided to revive this place.”

“But I think it’s reasonable,” Meyer continued of the pay raises. “To answer some questions, we are all taxpayers here too. We are citizens of Eureka Springs. We pay taxes and we were chosen by the taxpayers to sit here and make these tough decisions, and that’s great. Everyone has their opinion, but I think it is high time to increase these salaries.

“It’s just a question of what we want to do, how far do we want to go.”

The board amended the third reading of the proposal to increase Armstrong’s salary, increasing the amount from $40,000 – which was approved during the second reading of the ordinance at the last board meeting – to 48 $000.

“I think our town clerk is worth the $48,000,” Greene said. “Ann is going to retire and if we want to attract people who want the job and who are going to do the job…it’s not an easy job. I hadn’t realized how poorly paid our mayors and clerks had been since I moved here 20 years ago.

Greene also pointed out that the cost of living will make it difficult in the future if salaries are not increased significantly.

“A single person can’t live in this town for $30,000 anymore,” Greene said. “They can’t buy a house. They can’t even find an apartment.

In other action at the meeting, the board voted 6-0 to suspend the rules and approved three readings and an emergency clause to increase the number of food truck lottery spots from three to eight in the designated areas along Highways 62 and 23. The motion was developed to eliminate the risk that a successful food truck wishing to remain in business would lose one of the three locations and be forced to close.

Council also voted 6-0 to approve a motion to make part of Lower German Alley one-way up the hill at its intersection with Cliff Street, a move designed to help eliminate many crashes along the narrow road and intersection.

Berry said signs will be ordered within the next 30 days which will hopefully divert traffic – especially large trucks – from the wrong direction on the newly designed street, avoiding the sharp bend to Cliff Street.

In new business, the council unanimously approved a request by Terina Kaye Johnston to bring a Pedego motorized bicycle franchise to the city and also approved 6-0 a resolution to reformulate a government employee retirement plan from the city.

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