LORAIN — Several positions in the city’s Building, Housing and Planning Department could see raises, following Finance and Claims approval of a memorandum of understanding Monday evening.
The MOU between United Steel Workers Local 6621 and the city would increase salaries for account clerk, administrative liaison, administrative secretaries, building inspectors and housing inspectors. The increase, totaling $34,527 with benefits for 12 positions, is an attempt to make salaries for those positions, especially inspectors, competitive with neighboring communities, Safety/Service Director Dan Given explained.
“We can say we don’t have the money, but the complaints keep coming in,” he said. “Residents still have demands, Council members still have their demands and I’m afraid that if we don’t do this we’ll have a bigger exodus.”
The increases across BHP would cost the city $19,583 from general fund and another $14,944 in federal block grant funds.
No one on Council disagreed the salaries needed raising, but Finance and Claims Committee Chairman Joe Koziura, D-at large, was hesitant to do so via an MOU. Given explained the agreement wouldn’t go into effect until it was approved by the city’s law director.
“I think we’re splitting hairs here, versus looking at the root cause of do we want to deal with this department in this way or do we not,” Given said. “And going forward how you want to deal with it, we can continue to have discussions with the law director on it, however this is solving the problem.”
Housing inspectors received special support from council to raise their salaries, in an effort to keep them certified and in the city. To bring larger employers to the area, the city must fix its roads, schools and housing stock, council members said — and keeping its housing and building inspectors is a way to combat blighted properties.
“We have an uphill battle as it is with everything we’re dealing with,” said Councilwoman Mary Springowski, D-at large. “We have to get this housing stock straightened out. It does not help that we’re still suffering the after effects of the mortgage crisis with all of these zombie mortgages and abandoned homes.”
Councilwoman Pam Carter, D-Ward 3, agreed a raise was needed in BHP to address the blight in the city — otherwise Council would keep talking about the same issues. She also asked the administration to revisit a salary study for the whole city, in an effort to keep other departments’ wages competitive.
Assistant chief electrician Richard Negron noted back in 1996, $18-an-hour for an inspector was good money, but now “it’s not much money anymore.” Under the MOU, his current salary would increase, with benefits by $1,221 a year. Other housing inspectors would see an increase, with benefits, between $2,704 and $3,211. Building inspectors — interim and state certified — would see an increase between $3,445 and $4,065 a year.
“I got offered a job at North Ridgeville, I’d be making $32-an-hour over there right now,” Negron said. “I make $28.82 here and I’m doing three times the work. I don’t have a problem with it because I love the city of Lorain. This is where I was born and raised.”
He added, “So I am that guy that’s willing to commit and I believe these guys behind me are willing to commit, too … We have to make a decent wage, that’s all we’re asking.”