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Village Council debates on increasing mayor’s yearly salary

Village Council debates on increasing mayor’s yearly salary

On Oct. 7, the Gambier Village Council held their monthly meeting. While several minor issues were brought up — including a Gambier pond that is suffering from erosion and a possible expansion to the community gardens — there were two primary points of discussion that dominated the meeting.

The first was a proposed project to install charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs) in the Village. The stations would be provided by EV United, a national company dedicated to expanding infrastructure for electric vehicles. A representative from EV United said that the company is currently working to integrate EV charging into smaller communities such as Gambier.

“It helps stimulate the economy for a tourism standpoint,” the representative said. “[If] someone’s charging here, they’re [also] shopping at local businesses, they’re stopping here on their way to Apple Valley or another destination.”

Under EV United’s program, Gambier would qualify for DC Fast Chargers, which can fill the battery of most electric cars in under an hour. Users would locate the stations and reserve spots for their cars using the app ChargePoint, which would also allow them to pay for the service. Under ChargePoint, proceeds from the charging stations would go directly to the Village.

The Council discussed where it would be best to put the chargers — generally, it was agreed that a location in the Village, near the Campus Auto gas station, would best stimulate economic activity. Ultimately, the Council agreed to postpone the decision until their November meeting, where the mayor may declare an emergency ordinance in order to quickly secure funds for the project.

The final topic under consideration was a proposed increase to the mayor’s salary. At present, the mayor of Gambier makes $9,000 a year. This sum is meant to reflect the scope of the mayor’s duties — Councilwoman Liz Forman estimated that the job would occupy around 40 hours per month. The proposed raise would increase this salary to $16,000 per year, a sum that some members thought was better suited to the mayor’s position.

Councilwoman Betsy Heer was concerned that the change in salary was taking place too close to a change in leadership. Currently, there is only a single mayoral candidate in the upcoming election, and it is too late for anyone else to enter the race.

“The optics and the timing of this is terrible,” Heer said. “The fact that we’re basically promising one person this enormous raise within three months of this person taking office is my issue . . . What I would expect as a compromise is to raise the salary to $12,000 rather than $16,000, which represents a thousand dollars a month. And if you want to raise the salary further, to do this in the coming year, so there’s no appearance of impropriety.”

Other Council members were concerned that the current salary was below minimum wage.

“You can’t afford to be the mayor,” Council member Phil Brooks said. “And you can see who’s been mayor. You have to either be retired, or have enough money, or have a spouse at Kenyon.”

“The hardest thing about becoming mayor in Gambier is you have to live here twelve months a year,” Forman interrupted. “That’s the hardest part.”

Some Council members didn’t believe that the mayor’s duties should be done primarily for profit, while others — including the current mayor, Kachen Kimmell — expressed offense at the idea that the job should be considered a “hobby.”

In the end, the discussion failed to reach a conclusion. The Council will vote on the proposition in December, as well as what the increased salary might be — whether that be $12,000, $16,000 or some other amount.

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