BAKER — Not with a whimper but with shouts. That’s how discussion of raising the salary for the incoming Baker police chief ended Tuesday night.
Council member Charles Vincent made a motion to introduce a proposed ordinance that would raise incoming Police Chief Carl Dunn’s salary to $85,000 per year, not including expenses and supplements amounting to $8,400, citing Dunn’s level of training and experience.
Outgoing Police Chief Mike Knaps, who has been on the force since 1981, receives $93,000 a year, including the expenses and pay supplements, putting him on step 24 of the Baker Police Department pay scale.
If Dunn began his tenure as police chief at step one, he would receive $62,000 a year, including the expenses and supplemental pay.
“When I was told about the salary (Dunn) would be receiving, I knew it wasn’t anything I could live with,” Vincent said.
Assistant Police Chief Randall Dunaway objected to the proposal, pointing out that, although he has served on the police force in Baker for 35 years, he is only on step 23 of the pay plan and makes $64,000 per year.
“I will file a lawsuit if you change the pay plan,” he said.
“Then, you will be helping bring down this city you love so much,” Vincent countered.
“Count me in (on suing the city),” police Capt. Glenn Daniel said. “I started at the bottom.”
After the council voted unanimously to introduce the proposed ordinance, Dunn stormed up toward the council.
“You’re going to let those goons talk, and you’re not going to let me talk?” he shouted at Mayor Harold Rideau.
“I had to introduce the motion,” Rideau yelled back over the noise that erupted in the council chambers. “I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful. I saw it was getting out of hand, and I had to rein it in. I apologize.”
A few minutes passed before order was restored, during which Dunn and others huddled near the middle of the council chambers.
Vincent also proposed an ordinance that would have raised Mayor-elect Darnell Waites’ annual pay from $77,000 to $89,000, but Waites asked that the item be removed from the agenda.
“The budget is tight, and I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize the 2 percent pay raise for the city workers,” he said.
The audience applauded when Waites sat back down.
Council member Joyce Burges also removed a proposed ordinance from the agenda that would have raised the council members’ pay by $500 per month.
Earlier in the meeting, Rideau presented the 2016-17 budget to the council. Revenue for 2015-16 was $6.5 million, which was $831,000 less than budgeted due to declining sales tax revenues. The budget was balanced and will be for the 2016-17 year as well, Rideau said. He predicted revenue for 2016-17 would be $7.3 million. In his budget letter to the council, Rideau stressed the need to raise utility funds, a move the council repeatedly has rejected.
In other business, the council voted unanimously to introduce proposed ordinances that would change the name of Baker Municipal Park on Groom Road to Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park and the Baker City Hall Building next door to Michael A. (Mike) Cross Administrative Building. Cross, who died in 2013, served as Baker mayor from 1976-81. A public hearing will be held at the June 28 council meeting, after which the council will make a final vote.
The council also voted to allow a petition to rename Lavey Lane as Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lane.