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City gives union raises

The Dalles City Council approved a 2 percent wage increase Monday for union employees in each of the next three years.

Nolan Young, city manager, gained agreement from the elected body to finalize the contract with members of Service Employees International Union, which includes some employees from finance, public works and maintenance.

Personnel from the library, a Wasco County special district managed by the city, will also receive the total increase of 6 percent. The first raise will be given in January 2015, the second in July of that year and the third in July 2016.

The three-year contract for police officers was finalized in 2013 and they also received 2 percent increases through 2016.

A cost of living adjustment for administrative workers will be considered during the budget planning process this spring. In the past few years, the 33 non-union workers have received a much smaller cost of living adjustment than the 47 employees in two unions.

In January 2013, administrative personnel were given a 1.5 percent cost of living raise, a half point more than they received the year before.

In other business at the March 10 meeting, the council approved the expenditure of $25,000 from the current budget for a Main Street coordinator position. That role is held by Matthew Klebes, who is part of the RARE (Resource Assistance for Rural Environments) program and here through a cooperative effort of the city, The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce and Port of The Dalles.

Young had been directed by the council to see if extra money could be found in the 2013-14 budget to bring a coordinator on board to help fill more than 40 empty storefronts. On Monday, Young said there was enough funding available in the general fund to cover that cost.

“The good news is that the money is there for this coordinator and it gives us traction to make some inroads downtown,” said Councilor Bill Dick.

Klebes has been working with board members from Main Street, a nonprofit group, and its two active committees — promotions and design — to come up with projects that will revitalize the downtown blocks.

The city created an Economic Development Specialist position for Dan Durow, former planning director, in 2012, to work toward that end. His part-time role is funded at about $30,000 per year out of urban renewal dollars and tax abatement funds provided by Google.

After downtown property owners objected to paying for a Main Street staffer with an assessment on tax lots, Young created the economic development department to fill that gap.

Klebes told the council in February, when making the request for more funding, that the ultimate goal of Main Street was to have a $65,498 annual budget by 2017, with the majority of funding derived from investors and project/event revenue.

Young recommended that the council hold off on providing $20,000 in funding for a July 4 fireworks display until a financial audit had been completed in November.

“We will know then what our financial health is,” he said.

The city was asked by the Fourth Dalles Fourth in January to come up with the capital as a match for other contributions.

The Fourth is a subcommittee of the Mid-Columbia Veterans Memorial Committee and planning to restart the annual Independence Day celebration in The Dalles that stopped 27 years ago. The group wants the city to invest $20,000 in the current fiscal year and then $15,000 in 2014-15.

Doug Kirchhofer, a representative of the Fourth, told the council two months ago that the cost of fireworks this July would be about $35,000.

Ultimately, the Fourth wants to see another $18,000 spent on a festival and $7,000 for regional promotion.

The plan, said Kirchhofer, is to make the event self-sustaining in three years by getting annual contributions from businesses, corporations, civic organizations and individuals. The council decided March 10 that they wanted another meeting with Fourth members to get more detailed information about the program, including the scope of insurance coverage.

Kirchhofer will be invited to make that presentation in April. City officials will then decide whether to use money out of the existing budget for the 2014 festivities or follow Young’s recommendation and consider an investment for 2015.

Councilors Bill Dick and Carolyn Wood have expressed concern about donating to one cause when there is a list of organizations that serve the community and could also use support.

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