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Council seeks to reel in city manager pick


October 18, 2016

Ray Towry

The finalist for city manager countered the Sweet Home City Council’s initial offer for salary and benefits, and the council responded with a counter of its own during its regular meeting on Oct. 11.

The council offered Raymond Towry, public relations and recreation director in Ephrata, Wash., step one on a five-step salary schedule with a three-month severance package available after a six-month probationary period. At step one, the salary is $7,449 per month, $89,388 per year.

Towry rejected the offer and asked to be placed on the fourth step, $8,459 per month, $101,508 per year, and a three-month severance package available immediately.

The council voted 5-1 to offer step three, $8,212 per month, $98,544 per year, which would increase to $8,417, $101,004 per year, in July. In November, following an evaluation, he would be eligible for a step increase to $8,670 per month at step four. The council also offered a three-month severance package immediately upon starting work.

In all cases, the salary schedule will be adjusted upward by 2.5 percent on July 1. A step increase requires council approval following an evaluation.

Voting for the offer were councilors James Goble, Mayor Jim Gourley, Dave Trask, Jeff Goodwin and Diane Gerson. Greg Mahler voted no. Ryan Underwood was absent.

Mahler said he preferred to respond to the counter offer with an offer for step two.

Based on a salary survey of similar-sized communities, said interim City Manager Christy Wurster, the average minimum salary for a city manager is $8,825 per month and the average maximum salary is $9,447 per month.

Silverton, which is in the same group as Sweet Home, has a more recent survey showing higher averages, Wurster said.

“One of (Towry’s) concerns with the position is the education of his children,” Wurster said. “In the state of Washington, they have a program where essentially when a student graduates from high school they can graduate with their two-year associate’s degree. That’s a concern with him for his children that he would be able to provide an education for them, and he said that had an economic value to him of about $30,000 per child for that two years of education.”

She told the council she sent him information about programs in Oregon and community college tuition.

“I think we need to discuss being competitive with our surrounding communities,” Goble said.

Goodwin said that what Towry is asking for “is within the range of what we advertised.

“I’m not concerned about that, really. What I’m more concerned about is looking at these comparables, these other towns. If you want somebody good, you’re going to have to pay for it.

“From the perspective of the severance, I don’t think I’d take the job with the possibility of losing my job. You come to City Council meeting on Tuesday night, we could have a vote and say you’re out. That’s it. No more pay. You’ve got a family to support.”

Mahler said he disagreed with immediate severance, but noted that “this gentlemen does not have the experience.

“I’ve conveyed that in many meetings. He’s not even stepped one foot in this town as far as experience or work or showed us anything. He’s done nothing, and we’re all of the sudden going to give him step four?

“I don’t think we should give him Step Four out of the gate. My position is he’s got to come in and show what he can do, prove himself. I don’t feel I want to open up Step Four without showing what he can do. He has no experience.”

Trask said Sweet Home can’t offer what other communities do.

“If people think that we’re ever going to get to the point where we’re as high as these other places, it’s just not going to happen,” he said. “We know it with the police. We know it with the fire. We know it with our Public Works employees. We know we’re never going to get there. Well maybe some day if you win the lottery and give us a bunch of money. We’re never going to be at the level that a lot of places are going to be. It’s just not going to happen.

“I would like to get somebody on board, but I don’t want to give up the farm for it. I’m not opposed to going a step or so above what we initially had in mind, which was the lowest one. I kind of all along thought that wasn’t going to fly although he did say he was kind of interested in that, and I’m not opposed to the three-month severance package. I probably wouldn’t do that either.”

In other business, the council approved an updated Water Management, Conservation and System Master Plan. It had been 20 years since the last update of the Master Plan and 10 years since the last update of the Water Management and Conservation Plan.

The council also voted to adopt an ordinance changing the council’s regular meeting time from 7:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. The change takes effect next month. The council will begin meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 22.


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