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Caledonia shoots down salary freeze


Jason Browne



CALEDONIA -- A vote to freeze salaries for all city positions until 2013 was voted down Tuesday at the Caledonia Board of Aldermen meeting. 


Alderman Quinn Parham cast the lone vote in favor of the freeze, which was recommended by Caledonia Mayor George Gerhart.  


Gerhart delivered a short statement at the outset of the meeting during which he pointed out he does not have authority regarding salaries, but stressed Caledonia''s need to cut costs. 


"I''ve had more complaints about these raises that we''ve got the last month and a half. I don''t make decisions about the raises. But I believe that every employee with the town of Caledonia ... all these employees are topped out. We need to start cutting back on a lot of this spending," said Gerhart, who vetoed raises passed in September for Water Supervisor Benny Coleman, to $49,955, a 3-percent raise; town clerk Judy Whitcomb, to $14.82, per hour, also a 3-percent raise; and Terry Ferrish, a park maintenance worker, whose pay increased from to $8 to $8.50 an hour. 


Aldermen met in a special session later that month to override the mayor''s vetoes.  


He went on to make a plea to the board to work together on previous plans to build a new community center and town hall. 


"We need to get our personal vendettas out of the way. Let''s do what''s good for our town. I wouldn''t have ran if I didn''t want this town to grow and progress. And we''ve been at a standstill for three months. Maybe we''ll get going later on," he said. "I''m going to work hard, and I expect the same out of y''all." 


The board also heard grievances from Caledonia Water Department technicians Trey Robertson and Randal Flippo in executive session. 


Gerhart said Robertson and Flippo, who earlier in the meeting were granted an additional $100 every other week to alternate working on standby, appeared before the board to request their overtime not be cut. 


"It was the consensus of the board that the Water Superintendent (Bennie Coleman) wait until the first of the year to make changes in their work schedules concerning overtime," said Gerhart. 


Coleman had intended to cut overtime pending the board''s decision on standby pay for the employees. Robertson, Flippo and Coleman comprise the entire Water Department staff, servicing 1,900 Caledonia citizens. 




Other business 


In other business the Caledonia board: 




  • Discussed plans for a new water treatment plant to be located on Old Wolf Road. 


    Coleman says bids to build the plant will be opened this month with construction scheduled to begin in January 2010. He expects the plant to be completed in 2011. 


    The estimated annual cost to operate the plant will be $185,000. 


    Parham questioned Coleman on the rate increase which will be passed along to Water Department customers to pay for the treatment plant''s construction. 


    Coleman said the rate increase cannot be calculated until the final cost of the plant is calculated after opening the project to bids. 


  • Approved $1,160 in funds for the Caledonia Parks and Recreation Department to purchase timber and iron to complete playgrounds, repair a city lawnmower, repair a vandalized monument at a city park and pay expenses for the Movies on the Mound program. 


  • Approved $450 to send a representative to a grant-writing seminar in Pearl, along with funds for equipment for the Marshal''s Department. 


  • Approved hiring a planner to look into constructing sidewalks linking North Caledonia, around Wells Drive, to Caledonia Schools. 


  • Approved $50 per week to have someone stripe city soccer fields. 


  • Discussed progress on Caledonia Day preparations for the Oct. 17 city event. 





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