No housing help for Hecksel
A draft contract proposal for Glenwood Springs city manager Jeff Hecksel contains no housing assistance but would hike his pay by 11.5 percent as of Sept. 1.The proposal, which City Council will discuss Thursday night, makes no mention of housing stipends or other assistance. Council members have previously said they were considering such assistance because of Hecksel’s difficulty finding a home to buy in the Glenwood area, but some city residents have questioned the idea.The draft contract proposes to boost Hecksel’s pay to $121,000 , up from $108,535. On Sept. 1 of next year, it would rise again, to $125,840.The contract would last through Aug. 31, 2010, with future salary hikes to be determined following annual reviews by council.Mayor Bruce Christensen said the salary hike contained in the draft contract reflects research regarding what other Western Slope communities are paying their city managers.”I believe that it’s very fair, it’s equitable, it’s certainly not at the higher end of what our competitors are paying in terms of compensation,” he said.Christensen declined to comment, at least for now, on the lack of housing assistance in the draft. He said the rationale behind the proposal will be presented at Thursday night’s council meeting.Council is expected to complete its annual evaluation of Hecksel’s performance in a closed-door meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday at City Hall. It then is scheduled to consider his contract in public during its regular meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.Council plans to accept public comment on the matter Thursday evening. Christensen cut off public comments at the last council meeting, saying they were based on misinformation about what council had been considering in terms of housing assistance.Some local residents have criticized the idea of providing housing assistance to the top-paid city employee. Christensen said he knows some people in the local mortgage and real estate industry say housing isn’t expensive locally. But he continues to disagree.”All of the data say we are higher than average,” he said.Council has been trying to hire a new city attorney, but so far has had little luck finding willing candidates despite a salary offer of $105,000, Christensen said. One problem has been the high cost of living in Glenwood Springs, he said.Christensen hopes that at some point council can work to provide some form of housing assistance to all city employees.Hecksel joined the city in 2004, moving to Glenwood Springs from Oregon. He and his family have been renting since living here, while trying to buy a home. He is required to live within 10 miles of city limits.Christensen said some Western Slope communities provide their managers with housing help.Hecksel’s current contract does include a $350-per-month vehicle allowance, which would be continued under the draft contract.Christensen said he expects council to approve the contract Thursday night unless council members want to make major changes.”I’m comfortable with what we’ve got, and I hope the rest of council is,” he said.He said he’s happy with the job Hecksel has been doing. When Hecksel arrived, the city was experiencing significant financial difficulties, but it has improved its financial management since then, Christensen said.”I think Jeff deserves a lot of credit for that,” he said.The idea of housing assistance had originated in council; Hecksel hadn’t requested it. Hecksel declined to comment Wednesday on his contract discussions with council.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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