Council extends increase to water board chairman

Published 10:40 pm Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Selma City Council voted Thursday to double the salary of the chairman of the Selma Water and Sewer Board.

The action clarifies a 4-3 vote from earlier this month to increase board members salaries from $200 to $400 a month.

The chairman, who is currently Robert Allen, will now make $600 rather than $300 a month. According to state law, the most a water board chairman can make in a year is $7,200.

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The city council voted 5-2 to extend raises to the water board chairman, who will make the maximum allowed.

Corey Bowie, Bennie Ruth Crenshaw, Michael Johnson, Susan Keith and Sam Randolph voted for the raise, while Cecil Williamson and Greg Bjelke voted against it. Angela Benjamin and B.L. Tucker were absent for the vote.

There was some discussion about when the raises will go into effect. Selma City Attorney Jimmy Nunn shared an opinion for the Alabama League of Municipalities that said the raises would be made effective Oct. 1.

However, Williamson shared an Alabama Attorney General opinion from 2007 that said the raises couldn’t go into effect until the next term.

The motion approved was effective pending clarification from the attorney general’s office.

“It just amazes me how we can try to table something just because we don’t have information. Stop playing these games,” Randolph said. “We have already voted for the members.”

Willamson made a motion to table the decision until clarification was given. That was voted down with only Bjelke’s support.

Most that voted for the chairman’s raise pointed out that the council had already voted to give board members an increase.

“Why are we now having to table for the chair when we have already voted for the members?” Crenshaw said. “I don’t see a need to discuss.”

Willamson has spoken out against the raises, saying he couldn’t reward people who approved a bond issue in 2006 that will result in annual water bill rate increases for 30 years.

“They approved a bond that’s going to increase everyone’s water bill for the next 25 years. That’s a hardship on some people,” Williamson said earlier this month. “I can’t vote to give some people a raise who did that.”

Johnson said he’s heard a lot about the water board raises since they were approved Dec. 8.  He wanted to make it clear that the raises have nothing to do with water rates and that the bonds were necessary to provide citizens with clean drinking water.

“The bond took place to correct some problems … I don’t mind paying a few extra dollars for my life,” Johnson said. “It’s done now. The water is going to increase.”

Randolph agreed that the upgrades done through the bond were vitally important.

“It was time to upgrade. That’s what we decided to do. The public ought to know that you are getting better water,” Randolph said.

CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story said “the board” voted 5-2 to increase the water board chairman’s salary. That has been corrected to read “city council.”