Sue Livers, a member of the city of Madison’s Human Relations Commission, addressed the city council after Mayor Bob Courtney read a resolution proclaiming February Black History Month in the city. (Madison Courier staff photo by Mark Campbell)
Sue Livers, a member of the city of Madison’s Human Relations Commission, addressed the city council after Mayor Bob Courtney read a resolution proclaiming February Black History Month in the city. (Madison Courier staff photo by Mark Campbell)
Madison City Council conducted a brief public hearing on funding several new positions Mayor Bob Courtney is creating in his administration as well as pay raises for city police officers, approved tax abatements for the Cotton Mill project and a proclamation making February Black History Month.
The new positions, which must be created and funded by ordinance, were previously announced by Courtney as part of his transition and reorganization of city administration last month. The hearing and a reading of that ordinance took place at the Tuesday night meeting.
The positions include a chief of staff, adding an economic development executive director and assistant and new assistants for planning/historic preservation and airport management.
Mindy McGee, who has already filled the chief of staff position, explained the jobs and the salary ranges requested, noting that no new tax dollars will be required to fund the positions and that some of the money reflects a reallocation of city funds to bring positions such as the economic development director in-house.
The salary range for chief of staff will be set at $31,200 to $51,890; economic development executive director at $39,000 to $45,000; economic development assistant $25,272 to $35,000; planning/preservation assistant $28,000 to $40,000, and airport assistant manager $20,000 to $32,000.
In addition, Courtney is proposing a $2,600 pay increase for city police officers starting with bi-weekly payments of $200 beginning July 3, 2020. The proposal will cost about $81,000 this year.
Courtney has said the pay increase will elevate the city’s police compensation to a level consistent and competitive with other communities and help retain officers who might otherwise be recruited away.
The economic development executive director’s position essentially reallocates money Madison formerly contributed to the Jefferson County Industrial Development Corporation to bring executive director Matt Wirth on as the city’s economic development director.
Later in the meeting, the council heard a report on the ongoing Cotton Mill project — the proposal to renovate a long empty former manufacturing building at St. Michaels Avenue and Vaughn Drive into a Fairfield by Marriott hotel and conference center — as it considered tax abatements the city had promised last year while recruiting that development.
Wirth said by declaring the site an economic development area, the city can grant a 10-year tax deduction and that the proposed investment in the site, potential for jobs and salaries and related economic development warrants the abatements.
Ron Batement, who heads up the Riverton LLC development group on the project, said a closing date on financing is scheduled for Feb. 24 and he hopes to obtain building permits soon after that.
However, some work has already begun at the site including some demolition and efforts to secure the building from weather since many of the windows are missing.
“We’re trying to get as much work as we can get done without a building permit, which is demo,” Bateman said. “We’re impatient as all get out ... we’re ready to rock and roll, and I think you’ll be seeing big changes.”
In other business:
• Courtney read a resolution proclaiming February Black History Month while noting the city’s diversity and historic role in the Underground Railroad and black history. Several members of the city’s Human Relations Commission were on hand to receive the proclamation.
• The council voted 5-1 with Councilman Curtis Chatham opposing and Councilperson Amanda Creech absent to approve a list of board appointments by the mayor including Jesse Brewer to a four-year term on the Port Authority, Councilperson Katie Rampy to a four-year term on the Police Merit Board, Kathie Petkovic to two-year term on the Jefferson County Board of Tourism and Councilman Jim Bartlett to a three-year term on the Preservation and Community Enhancement Commission. Later in the meeting, Courtney also appointed McGee as the city’s ADA and Title VI Coordinator since former coordinator Bob Cooke is transitioning to the treasurer’s office.
• Heard that the Parks Department will offer reduced cost 2020 season passes to Crystal Beach pool if bought early, including $40 through March 31, $50 through May 22 and $60 after May 23.
• Heard a report by Aaron Wood of Madison TV 15 that station director Dennis Crank is hospitalized in critical condition and Wood will serve as acting station manager until Crank can return to duties.
• Heard the second reading of a zoning map modification to rezone 110 Cragmont St. from Historic Residential to its previous zoning designation Heavy Industry. The third reading is scheduled for next council at which time the proposal may come to a vote.
• Fielded a “personal concern” from Andrea Buxton of Hanover, on the Madison Police Department’s policy regarding vehicle pursuits and what constitutes appropriate justification for high speed pursuits in the wake of last month’s crash in which two teens died and the driver was critically injured during a pursuit.
Interim Police Chief Ben McKay read the city’s policy on pursuits and Courtney reiterated portions of his previous statement that the outcome of the pursuit was tragic and unfortunate, that the incident was being investigated and results of that investigation will be released to the public upon conclusion.
“What really constitutes chasing somebody at a high rate of speed that ends up in a death?” Buxton said. “There’s got to be a better way. There has to be. I know that things were found out after the fact that they had done wrong but as far as I know it wasn’t known beforehand. I don’t get chasing them to death. I don’t get it.”
“It was a tragic accident, the incident that occurred. I believe that our men and women in uniform do the best that they can to make the split-second decisions to support and keep our community safe,” Courtney said. “Sometimes the outcome isn’t what everybody would like or desire. The matter is under investigation by the Indiana State Police, so I think we will find out more facts surrounding the circumstances in the coming weeks.”
“So will those be made known?” Buxton asked.
“Yes, and I appreciate you being here tonight,” Courtney said.