Duluth approves pay hike

DULUTH - Defying the recommendation of a special study committee, the Duluth City Council on Monday approved a 1 percent cost-of-living pay raise for employees with the prospect of upgrading at least 60 jobs in the spring.

The Investments and Employee Retirement Benefits Committee had approved a 2 percent adjustment in Duluth despite a negative reading of 0.6 percent of the Consumer Price Index for Atlanta for the 12 months ended in October 2006.

But Mayor Pro-tem Douglas Mundrick, who moved for the final figure of 1 percent, said he did not believe going to a blanket 2 percent was correct.

"I would like to see a 1 percent adjustment and allow any other jobs to be upgraded in the spring," he said. "I think 1 percent would be sufficient at this point in time."

The vote in favor of the motion was 3-1.

In another employee financial matter, the council approved an increase in mileage reimbursement from $.445 to $.485 per mile in accordance with the Internal Revenue Service rate that will be effective in January of 2007. The council this fall had already raised the per mile pay-back rate to $.44 per mile.

Also Monday, the council accepted a proposal by Jennifer Freeman, a mosaic artist, to create at least two panels of tile art for the new Duluth City Hall to be built next year.

The art pieces will reflect the past as well as new structures in Duluth. The council approved a motion, also by Mundrick, to fund the project with$14,711 and "find the money in the budget."

In other business, the council accepted a Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic grant of $90,800. The money, a program of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, targets impaired drivers, speeders, aggressive drivers and those who do not wear seat belts.

Also Monday, the council:

•accepted a donation of $8,000 for the city's planned Living Memorial to boost a $9,500 donation made two weeks ago. The amount included a $5,000 donation from Merton Walk and $1,000 each from JWB Realty, Majestic Ventures Capital Corp. and Russell Corporate Groups Inc.

•approved a contract with LaserCraft Inc. of Norcross for red-light traffic enforcement camera services for three additional locations. Currently, Duluth's only camera is at Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and Pleasant Hill Road.

• planned to notify owners of sprinkler systems to monitor their devices to prevent the excess water freezing in the roadways, and

•authorized a $5,000 insurance policy for the North Georgia Live Steamers group to run mini-train trips in the city for special events. The train which includes an engine and three cars, is parked at Stone Mountain, the railroad officials said.