Tama discusses employee wages

Two separate provisions that would allow premium pay for essential city employees and volunteers who performed duties in 2020 through the COVID-19 pandemic were approved on Sept. 20 by the Tama City Council after a combined measure failed to pass at their previous meeting.

Funding for the premium pay is coming entirely from federal American Rescue Plan aid dollars.

At their Sept. 7 meeting there was a resolution that outlined premium pay amounts being allocated to specific individuals employed in the city’s fire, police, emergency services and administration departments as well as volunteers in the ambulance department.

At the time the resolution failed to pass a vote as council member Aaron Haughey was not in attendance, council member Anne Michael voted no and council member Larry Thomas abstained from the vote due to being one of the ambulance volunteers receiving the premium pay.

Two weeks later the resolution was split into separate resolutions, with one listing premium pay for employees totaling $49,772 and another listing premium pay for ambulance volunteers in the total amount of $11,640.

This time Michael abstained from voting citing a belief that not all employees listed on the resolution were critical to the safety and well-being of Tama citizens.

The resolution passed however as council members Thomas, Haughey, Babinat and Beatty all voted in favor.

The second resolution also passed with Michael, Haughey, Babinat and Beatty voting in favor and Thomas abstaining due to being listed on the resolution as an ambulance volunteer.

Pool bond redemption

The Tama Council voted to approve the early redemption of the bond used to help finance the Tama-Toledo Aquatic Center.

The bond has a remaining total of around $305,000 that would otherwise have been paid off over the next three years.

City Clerk Alyssa Devig informed the council they could use Local Option Sales Tax dollars to pay off the bond, which would incur an interest savings of around $100,000.

Police wages

The council held a discussion with Tama Police Chief Jason Bina regarding concerns he has over recent and potential upcoming departures from the department.

One officer, Sam Lovan, recently resigned from his position and, according to Bina, two other officers have submitted applications to work for other agencies.

Council member Haughey said he spoke with a current officer and a former Tama officer who both communicated to him that they enjoyed their experience working for the department but that they had or were pursuing work elsewhere because the pay is not competitive enough at the level Tama is offering.

Bina said currently their budget allows them to send only one officer through the police academy, should they hire a non-certified applicant. He said having to send three new officers through the academy would present a significant financial challenge.

Tama Officer Tyler Ayala-Pagan shared that he’s felt the department has been a great place to work and learn and that the city should try to aim toward retaining officers for a few years rather than expecting new hires to make their career in Tama.

“I don’t think that keeping people forever is really going to happen,” Ayala-Pagan said. “But getting the pay up there to get people in the door for three or four years. Instead of having a mass exodus, you limit the turnover to one officer every couple years. This place is obviously a great place to start off in and has made me the officer that I am right now. But most officers my age or younger won’t even look at Tama when there are other cities our size where they can get paid more and honestly, do a little less work because this place is pretty busy.”

Bina said in talks with the clerk’s office he’s considering a proposal that would utilize the interest savings incurred by the payoff of the pool bond to help finance an increase in officer wages.

The council decided to continue investigating police wage increases and to possibly bring the issue back at the Oct. 4 meeting.

In other business…

The council approved an ordinance updating the city’s flood plain regulations.

A public hearing was set for Oct. 4 at 5:30 p.m. for the awarding of a construction contract for the Lincoln Highway Bridge repair project.

Tama EMS Paramedic Alea Vesely recently completed Paramedic Certification. A raise increase to $19 per hour with an additional increase after 90 days to $20 per hour was approved by the council.

The city accepted a bid for its 1951 fire department Chevy pickup truck for $3,750. The bid was awarded to Sharon Guthrie of Cedar Rapids.