Duluth approves pay increase for city employees

DULUTH - All Duluth city employees will receive a 3 percent pay increase effective Jan. 1. The council unanimously approved the cost-of-living salary adjustment Monday.

The pay adjustment was recommended by the city's Finance Committee and budgeted. Duluth bases the amount on the Atlanta Consumer Price Index for the 12 months ending October 2008 as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Duluth uses the CPI as a benchmark," Councilman Jim Dugan explained.

Atlanta's CPI for that period increased 5 percent, but Duluth caps the salary adjustment at 3 percent. Prior salary adjustments have been lower than Atlanta's CPI.

If Atlanta's CPI had been lower than 3 percent, Duluth's cost of living adjustment would have matched the amount.

The salary adjustment, Dugan said, "helps the city keep up with the labor market."

Despite the current economic downtown, Duluth has not had to lay off any employees, according to Ken Sakmar, budget and accounting manager for the city.

Art presentation

Local artist Beth Moody, photographer Wallace Reid of Portraits on Main, and Duluth Historical Society President Judy Wilson presented the city with restored photographs of four former Duluth mayors to be hung in the community room at the new City Hall.

The photographs were of Alice Strickland, Georgia's first female mayor who served from 1922 to 1923; H.G. Herron, 1930-31; Mack Pittard, 1911-14; and Marlon Corley, who led the city in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Museum rescue effort

During a workshop after the meeting, the council referred a request by Wilson for the city to help the society lease or purchase the Strickland Home to the city's Parks and Recreation Committee for a recommendation.

The society wants to save the historic home and use it for a museum and welcome center. Its current museum is slated to be razed for the redevelopment of the old city hall block.

The society has about $65,000 in funds to cover leasing the home and expenses for a year, Wilson said, but desires to secure funding for three to five years while it sponsors fund-raising events and seeks additional grants and donations to accumulate $2 million to buy the home. A portion of the lease amount could be applied to the purchase price, she said.

The $65,000 includes a $50,000 grant from the Scott Hudgens Family Foundation and funds raised by sale of the "Dog Days of Duluth" sculptures, according to Wilson.

If the Parks and Recreation Committee recommends amending the city's master parks plan to include the Strickland Home, the city possibly could use special purpose local option sales tax funds to purchase the house or enter into a lease-purchase agreement.

The proposal also would have to be reviewed by the city's SPLOST Committee. SPLOST funds can only be used for capital expenditures.