Community advisory vote will decide if council gets compensation

An ordinance was passed by the Bethel City Council that would provide for compensation and benefits for city council members, pending an advisory vote at the next city election.

The ordinance was sponsored by council member Fritz Charles and passed introduction at the April 23rd city council meeting in 2019 by a vote of 5-2. Voting in support of introduction were Mayor Fred Watson, Vice Mayor Thor Williams, and council members Carole Jung-Jordan, Perry Barr, and Fritz Charles. In opposition of introduction were Leif Albertson and Mitchell Forbes.

When proposed Ordinance 19-05 was first introduced, it stated that for each calendar month served as an elected official, each council member shall receive compensation of $300 to be paid the month following the month of service.

It also stated that councilmembers shall be provided with water and sewer utility benefits on the same level and basis as provided for city department heads.

Currently Bethel City Council members are all volunteers.

Being a city council member requires a commitment of a significant amount of personal time, says Ord. 19-05, and that most months the City Council meets twice in the month with meetings lasting an average of 4 hours each.

Furthermore, in order to prepare for a City Council meeting, each City Council member must spend between 5-8 hours per week reviewing the extensive council packets.

And there is more. Even when not at City Hall, City Council members are always working since citizens have the right and privilege to contact them with concerns, questions, suggestions, criticisms, etc.

And there are the committee and commission assignments. In addition to their duty to attend City Council meetings, each City Council member is a member of at least one committee or commission for the City, increasing the volunteer hours for a council member.

City Council members are also expected to attend special meetings and budget meetings which can last for several weeks. All of this time is uncompensated and takes the City Council member away from their paying jobs and from their families, says Ord. 19-05.

During the April 23rd, 2019 regular city council meeting, amendments were made to the ordinance.

Instead of $300 per regular city council meeting, council decided on $100. For special meetings it is $25. That amendment passed 5-2. A secondary amendment to change the $100 per regular meeting to $25 and $10 for special meetings failed, 2-5.

For the compensation to occur, the voting public of Bethel will decide yes or no during the City’s next regular election, which was another amendment that passed 5-2. Voting in support of this amendment were Mayor Watson, Vice Mayor Williams, and council members Albertson, Barr, and Forbes.

The main motion to adopt the amended Ordinance 19-05 was close. It passed 4-3 with Mayor Watson, Vice Mayor Williams, and council members Jung-Jordan and Charles voting yea. In opposition were council members Albertson, Barr, and Forbes.

It is now up to the voters of Bethel to decide if council members should be compensated for serving on council. The next upcoming election is set for October 1st, 2019.