GARRETT — A proposed ordinance changing the position of mayor of Garrett from part-time to full-time was tabled Tuesday, following a 2-2 tie vote of the Garrett Common Council.
Currently, Mayor Todd Fiandt’s part-time salary is $38,056. The proposed annual salary would be $64,090. The tie vote occurred because Councilman Dave Demske was not present for the meeting.
While all council members present said they agree the mayor’s job definitely should be full-time, Councilwoman Amanda Charles said “the dollar amount is what bothers me,” saying the proposed salary is higher than in cities of the same size.
Charles offered comparisons to salaries for full-time mayors in cities of similar size, and for cities that are nearby, such as Lawrenceburg with a population of around 5,000 with a salary of $41,000; mayor of Auburn at $66,000 in 2018, and Kendallville’s mayor at $57,000.
“So, I think the $60,000 amount is very reasonable for Auburn and Kendallville,” Charles said, but she found the proposal for Garrett at about $64,000 tough to swallow.
“I think the ($50,000’s range) is acceptable. It’s going a little high for the first time taking it up to full-time pay,” Charles said.
Councilman Brad Stump said while the proposed salary has nothing to do with the person in the position at the moment, it does have to do with the lack of continuity of plans that had been in progress following a change in the mayor’s office. Fiandt was reelected earlier this month.
Stump said his concern is that the position does not carry any specific requirements, and things might not always do as well as they should, noting that he and Fiandt have not always seen eye-to-eye. Stump suggested the city consider hiring a town manager, appointed by the mayor.
Councilman Tom Kleeman said he didn’t disagree with the notion of a town manager, adding that an election was just held a couple weeks ago. “I have no problem with the $64,900,” Kleeman said.
Both Charles and Stump said they were not aware of the proposed salary until the day before, while Councilman Todd Sattison said he knew the amount would be in the $60,000’s. Clerk-Treasurer Marcie Conkle said the line item was in place during earlier budget meetings with each of the council members.
Kleeman said the exact number was “not thrown out there,” but he knew pretty much where the proposed salary would be.
Council members agreed to independently look up salaries paid in other communities to present at the Dec. 3 meeting. With a deadline by the end of the year, the salary measure would need to be passed on first reading and adopted at a second meeting prior to Dec. 31.
Also provided in the proposed wage-and-salary ordinance was 3% raise for council members to $155 biweekly, or $4,030 annually. The clerk-treasurer’s full-time salary would increase to $60,840, a hike of $2,840 annually.
In other business, Fiandt reminded citizens of Saturday’s horse parade, including a visit from Santa Claus, lighting of Christmas displays, hot chocolate at City Hall and free movie of “The Santa Clause” at the Silver Screen Cinema, among many other activities.
City Attorney Dan Brinkerhoff thanked city workers, leaders and donors for making improvements the downtown area. He said over the past two weeks, several clients from out of town recently visited Garrett after being away, and all “remarked how much improved the business district appeared and looked,” including cleanliness, more storefronts occupied than in a long time and new streetlights, planters and benches.
“Thank you for funding all that — the mayor, the council, the Redevelopment Commission played a big part in that — it was a vision you guys made happen — and people do notice,” Brinkerhoff said.