All candidates for the three Morgan County Council seats up for election this year are running unopposed. Of all seven members currently sitting on the council, only two actually ran against an opponent to earn their seat. That says something, according to Councilwoman Tina Cannon.
“People are not interested in doing this,” Cannon said. “You are woefully underpaid,” she told the council this month. “The time we spend isn’t worth anything. Maybe people would take it more seriously if we got paid for the time we put in.”
The council chairman receives $8,000 each year to essentially run the county. Other council members receive $6,000 annually. Compare that to the $150,000 to $170,000 county commissioners get paid in neighboring counties, Councilman Ned Mecham said.
“When I got (on the council in 2010), I argued against an increase (for council member pay),” said Kilmer, who ran unopposed in 2012 and again this election cycle. “But now I see how hard it is to get anyone to help or run for the position, how much time we donate to the community. We have got to do something so that people step up.”
However, at least one council member said it is not the right time to vote themselves a pay raise.
“The appetite is not in the public to change that,” Councilman Logan Wilde said.
Cannon said either the seven-member council needs to provide oversight of the county or hire someone to do that. “The compensation for that is not being addressed in our budget or form of government,” she said. “We could easily say the line item missing from our budget is $150,000 if we hire and administrator with benefits. We are failing to address the cost of having an administrator in the county.”
Wilde agreed, saying current council members are missing important meetings meant to update them on legislation and issues that will affect Morgan County.
“I know the constraints. We all have jobs” outside county council responsibilities, said Wilde, a rancher who is running for a spot on the state legislature. “But we need somebody that can take point, know the laws and statutes coming before the state legislature so we can address them ahead of the curve.”
“We keeping digging ourselves deeper in a hole. We are getting deeper and deeper because we don’t have anyone that can make that commitment,” Cannon said. Although Morgan County doesn’t pay an administrator, they still has the same responsibility to run a county just like other counties do, she said.
“We have the same responsibilities as the larger counties, just in a smaller form. There are still issues of day-to-day oversight,” Cannon said. “This body is responsible for financial oversight. I am not excited to take something like that on.”
Cannon said the council should consider a 100 percent increase in pay for council members, with the chairman getting $15,000 a year and other council members getting $12,000 a year. Even with that raise, Morgan County Councilmembers would be getting a third of the pay as the next lowest-paid councilmembers/commissioners in the state, she said. “Councilmembers have put themselves last on the budget,” which is a good example, she said. “But I am getting really burnt out. There are things we aren’t addressing.”
The county council held budget sessions three days this week.