Updated, 7:30 a.m.: Copy edits
NORWALK, Conn. – Here’s the news from Tuesday’s quick Norwalk Common Council meeting:
- Ordinance employees granted pay raises; better evaluation system promised
- CHM2 hired to explore flooding issues
- Registrars expect pay raise to bring them in line with Danbury
- Ramirez appointed to Fair Housing
- Pop Up Library expected
Pay raises authorized
Common Council members Tuesday updated the pay plan for non-union, appointed and elected city officials to allow Mayor Harry Rilling to grant those employees a 2.36 percent raise retroactive to July 1.
Personnel Committee Chairwoman Barbara Smyth (D-At Large) explained that six of the “ordinance employees” are not eligible for the raises as they were recently hired. Neither are the department heads whose positions were elevated to cabinet level and received significant salary boosts in the recent reorganization.
Rilling can also award raises from a $50,000 bonus pool that is already in the budget, a pool that predates the Rilling administration, she said. The maximum bonus that an employee can receive is 5 percent of salary.
Smyth said the Committee generally supported the bonus pool as some employees have been receiving the bonus annually for eight or nine years, and have been counting on it and expecting it, but committee members also felt that an evaluation system is needed to bring more structure and more accountability.
Director of Personnel and Labor Relations Ray Burney said he would develop “a revised pay plan that includes a revised, hopefully better performance evaluation program” and deliver it by April.
“It is critically important that we make sure that we evaluate in a manner which is effective to evaluate our employees,” Rilling said. “… I have worked with these employees for five years now. I can state unequivocally that they are good hardworking dedicated employees who give everything they have to the city of Norwalk and many of them, although they are not entitled to overtime, work long and hard hours. Even in my office, I will see the employees there until 5:30, 6 o’clock at night. I walk out of my office and I say what are you still doing here?”
“Right now, as you know, there is kind of a halo effect on performance evaluations and they don’t always do the job that you want them to do,” Rilling continued. “… I also project perhaps that when we do we are going to find out that the employees that work for us are top notch, and we are very lucky to have them.”
Council voted to approve the measure 11-1-1. Minority Leader Doug Hempstead (R-District D) was the lone “no” vote and Ernie Dumas (D-District B) abstained. Tom Livingston (D-District E) and Nick Sacchinelli (D-At Large) were absent.
Council approves ‘excellent’ $150,000 contract amendment
The Council unanimously approved an amendment to an existing contract to allow CHM2 Hill Engineers, Inc. to begin addressing Norwalk’s stormwater system issues after three intense rainstorms created widespread flooding issues.
Public Works Committee Chairman John Igneri (D-District E) called the amendment an “excellent item,” explaining that “unbelievable rains” have overwhelmed the sewer system, particularly during one storm.
The sewer system is built to handle up to 90 million gallons a day, with a usual flow of 13 million gallons, but on Sept. 25, the system was overwhelmed with 105 million gallons, Igneri said recently. When the system is overwhelmed, untreated sewage can flow directly into the Sound. On Sep. 25, m ore than 1 million gallons of untreated sewage flowed into the Sound, according to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).
CHM2 already has a contract with the Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA).
“We need to look into this and here is an engineer that we have been working with WPCA, who is proven, and he can quickly get to work to look at some of the storm service engineering problems we have,” Igneri said. “I think it’s a good item.”
“I believe this is a good first step to move forward,” Council President John Kydes (D-District C) said, thanking Rilling and Igneri for expediting the matter. “I think we’re living in a world now where we have got 200-year storms happening on a regular basis and we need to do something to resolve the flooding issues we have around town. I think this will also shed light on those areas in town that flood even without this tremendous amount of rain.”
The approval was unanimous.
Registrars will get raises on Jan. 1
Pay rates for Norwalk’s registrars of voters have been lower than they should be, Smyth said. Because registrars are elected they have only gotten raises every other year and, “they have fallen a little bit behind, if you look at what other towns are doing,” she added.
A 2.36 percent raise on Jan. 1 will come after a previously authorized raise on Dec. 31, Burney explained. Then there will be another 2.36 percent raise on July 1.
The raises will bring their pay to slightly more than that of Danbury registrars, Smyth said.
Rilling said that raises for the registrars have been “kind of left up to a whim” and now they will get the same raises as ordinance employees.
“I think that’s really a great move on behalf of this Council. I think that a lot of thought went into this, a lot of understanding of what the registrars do,” he said. “… The administrative staff in the office are currently making more than the registrars themselves. So, I think that’s really important, as a consideration…. it could be demoralizing, and we need to make sure that we have people in the registrars’ office who are qualified to serve, rather than take a chance on losing them if they decide the compensation they are receiving is not fair and equitable based on other registrars throughout the area.”
The vote was unanimous.
An appointment and a reappointment
Norwalk Housing Authority Board Chairman Cesar Ramirez was appointed to the Fair Housing Advisory Commission in a unanimous vote.
Greg Burnett (D-At Large) observed that Ramirez is a Norwalk Police Officer who is “very active in the community, always welcoming” and always willing to hear about people’s problems.
Travis Simms (D-District B) said he’s known Ramirez for 25 years and he is “very professional.”
Also, Nancy Burke was reappointed to the Fair Housing Advisory Commission.
“Her legal background will continue to serve her well, continuity is important to this commission,” Burnett said.
Burke’s background includes working as a family attorney for Connecticut Legal Services in Stamford, followed by private practice with cases in local Probate Courts, and service representing children in family matters, according to her resume.
The Council unanimously authorized the use of $75,000 of capital budget funds to purchase a Mobile PopUp Library vehicle.
“About the size of a tiny delivery van, the PopUp Library is a fully electric low-speed vehicle that is specially customized to transport and display library materials,” Norwalk Public Library Director Christine Bradley wrote on Sept. 13. “Visitors can browse and check out a selection of materials, get a library card, and enjoy a storytime. A low-speed vehicle, (25 mph) has an exceptional ‘green’ rating, is a fraction of the cost of a standard bookmobile, and can be driven by any licensed driver. Unlike a standard bookmobile, it can be managed by one person. It’s charged by a standard 110 volt outlet and is street legal, so it can be driven to a location and parked on the grass or sidewalk.”
On Tuesday, Bradley said that someone has already offered to donate the vehicle’s opening day collection. “Look for us in the Memorial Day parade,” she added.