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Council approves executive staff wage increase and Norplex Pool feasibility study

June 24 meeting last before summer schedule with monthly meetings takes effect until September
City council meeting (June 24, 2019)
From left to right, councillors Duncan Wong and Jeff Fountain voted against giving the city’s executive staff a 1.5 per cent wage increase during Monday’s regular meeting. Meanwhile, Coun. Earl Colbourne and deputy mayor Kathy Valentino were in favour of this resolution.

Thompson city council greenlit a pair of important resolutions during their June 24 meeting, the last before the summer schedule is in effect. 

Councillors voted unanimously to award an $80,010 contract to KGS Group for a feasibility study on the Norplex Pool to see whether or not the city should build a new facility or fix the existing one.

Council shut down Norplex Pool Feb. 13 after an engineering review discovered serious structural and electrical problems in the building. 

While there has been a lot of talk about the right way to proceed, especially with the formation of a new ad-hoc pool committee, director of development services Harkamaljeet Singh Gill wrote in a memo to council that KGS Group will perform all the necessary tests required to determine whether the building is safe or not.

These consultants will also provide the city with estimates of how much it will cost to retrofit the facility for other uses if upgrades are not an option.

Gill told the Thompson Citizen that they hope to get this feasibility study back from KGS Group by Aug. 31.

Council was a little more divided on approving a 1.5 per cent wage increase for their executive staff for the upcoming year, which passed by a 5-3 margin. 

Coun. Brian Lundmark was not present for Monday’s meeting and did not vote.

In a memo to council, city manager Anthony McInnis wrote that this is an annual resolution that mirrors the increases unionized city employees negotiated in their collective bargaining agreements.

Coun. Jeff Fountain was one of the most vocal opponents of this resolution, saying he cannot support an “across the board” wage increase when the city is facing financial challenges with massive job losses at Vale and a diminished grant-in-lieu agreement.

“I’ve agonized over it since we discussed it originally when we went into budget deliberations,” he said. “It’s hard to tell people that you work with, respect and know are working hard that you don’t support a raise for them, but I don’t think the timing is right.”

In a June 24 post on his “Community First” Facebook account, Fountain wrote that he is in favour of increment increases that are tied to individual performance reviews.

Coun. Duncan Wong echoed Fountain’s objections during Monday’s meeting, adding that he has an especially hard time supporting this resolution due to the increased property taxes in the ciy's 2019-20 budget.

Coun. Judy Kolada also voted against this resolution, as she did last year when council approved  a 1.25 per cent salary increase for executive staff for the year ending this June 30.

However, the rest of council did not see it this way, with Coun. Earl Colbourne saying these 20 city employees, who serve as executive assistants and the heads of various departments, all work very hard and deserve a raise. 

“It is ludicrous to not approve it, because they do such a good job,” he said. “What would we do without them?” 

Deputy mayor Kathy Valentino repeated her comments from last year’s discussion on the topic, saying that this salary increase, which is less than $20,000 in total, has already been accounted for in this year's budget.

The next Thompson city council meeting is July 15, with the following get-together falling on Aug. 12.

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