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Council adopts equal pay, witnesses proposal

Superior Mayor Jim Paine proposed equal pay for councilors, while council President Tylor Elm simply proposed.

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City Council Chambers, Superior, Wisconsin. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
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SUPERIOR — Since 2019, Superior's city councilors haven’t been paid the same.

While councilors in even-numbered districts have seen their stipend increase, councilors representing odd-numbered districts have not had similar adjustments in their pay.

Mayor Jim Paine proposed an ordinance change to ensure councilors are compensated equally for their time, a proposal the council adopted Tuesday, March 1.

However, the pay scale won’t change until April 19, 2023, after all councilors who voted for the pay raise face re-election.

“We made a mistake,” Paine said of a 2018 ordinance change that was designed to increase councilor pay by the same percentage nonunion salaries increase on an annual basis.

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The ordinance only applied to even-numbered district councilors, resulting in the pay disparity.

While the intent in 2018 was to increase the salary for odd-numbered councilors the subsequent year, Paine said that never happened.

“Our council is structured in such a way that it makes it very hard to fix it,” Paine said.

MORE SUPERIOR CITY COUNCIL COVERAGE
Councilors also expand options for one-day cabaret licenses.

Councilor Brent Fennessey who represents the 5th District, questioned whether the change should go into effect in 2022.

In Wisconsin, elected officials are not permitted to change their salaries.

City Attorney Frog Prell said that requires two elections would have to be held or half of the council would be voting for their own salary increase.

“By taking it out to two election cycles from now, all of you are vulnerable to an election ... and protects you from an ethics violation,” Prell said. “It can’t be argued that any of you voted on your own pay increase.”

Under the ordinance change, councilors would receive $7,223.86 annually, paid on a monthly basis. It would eliminate councilor’s expenses and just include them in the base pay.

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Councilors in even-numbered districts are paid $5,072.82 in annual salary and are reimbursed for expenses up to $2,008.39 while councilors in odd-numbered districts earn $4,896 and can claim expenses up to $1,938.

Paine said there is a small increase built into the new salary for councilors in even-numbered districts, but the biggest benefit is for councilors in odd-numbered districts.

“The way the council is structured it’s very difficult to give you a raise,” Paine said.

In other business:

Councilors adopted an ordinance that will allow permanent deer stands and trail cameras on public lands, bringing the city inline with county ordinances and state code.

Councilors voted to close tax increment district No. 9, allowing increment to be redistributed among all taxing authorities within the city starting with the 2022 tax roll.

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Council President Tylor Elm proposes to his now-fiancee, Heidi Aldrich, during the city council meeting Tuesday, March 1, 2022.
Contributed / Rebecca Scherf

Council President Tylor Elm provided the final proposal Tuesday night. Elm rose from the dais and walked across the council chambers to the gallery where the public can observe their government at work, an open ring box in hand, as he approached Heidi Aldrich, the woman he’s been dating for about a year.

“Will you marry me?” Elm asked.

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Aldrich, at medical researcher at the University of Minnesota Duluth, said yes.

Elm said her similar interests and goals, and generosity were among the things that made him decide to ask Aldrich to marry him.

“I think she expected I’d propose quietly at a park with a waterfall, so I knew I couldn’t do that,” Elm said. “Mayor (Jim Paine) was very helpful and supportive of making it happen all while keeping it a secret.”

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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