CEDAR CITY – Budgets were approved despite a controversial raise included for Cedar City Council members, the new fire marshal and his family were introduced to the city and Honor Flight veterans presented the mayor with a 13-star, 13-stripe flag they raised and flew over Fort McHenry, Maryland while on their trip – all in one Wednesday night City Council meeting.
A new fire marshal for Cedar City
The council chambers were abuzz as Cedar City Fire Chief Mike Phillips introduced new city fire Marshal Mike Shurtz to City Council and administrators.
As Shurtz made his way to the podium Phillips said, jokingly, that Shurtz better get used to the public speaking that comes along with the title; a challenge the Shurtz appeared to take on with little hesitation.
The Cedar City native said he only lived in the county below “that starts with a W” for a short time, but other than that has lived in Festival City for the entirety of his life. Offering apologies for straying, Shurtz went on to share his excitement for his new appointment.
“I love the Fire Department and I love what we do,” he said. “I’m just excited and look forward to serving the community and continuing down this path.”
The married, father of five has been with the Cedar City Fire Department for more than 10 years as a volunteer or full time employee, he said, and proceeded to introduce his family to the gathering.
Honored veterans give back
Five men in blue T-shirts stood with a folded flag and a certificate and made their way to the podium.
Addressing the City Council, Iron County Honor Flight Committee member and Vietnam veteran Ron Lewis said:
I would like to begin by mentioning the three men standing right there … are three of the 25 Iron County heroes that went on a trip back to Washington D.C. and returned last Saturday.
During that time while in Washington they had the honor, and we now have the honor, of presenting to the city of Cedar City a 13-star flag that these men flew over Fort McHenry while they were back there.
The 13-star flag was chosen for its significance in the battle at Fort McHenry when American soldiers successfully held the British navy at bay in the War of 1812 making sure the flag never touched the ground, Honor Flight Committee member and Vietnam veteran Dennis Robison said.
“That was the flag that started it,” he said. “That was our original flag, that was our patriotism; so that’s the flag that they used – they flew that flag over (Fort McHenry) like it was the original one, like it was the flag that Betsy Ross made.”
The three men represented two major wars in the mid-1900s: Jim Beal, World War II; Harold Hiskey and Gerald Stoker, the Korean War.
Mayor Maile Wilson accepted their presentation; and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
Read more: Utah Honor Flight’s emotional homecomings in St. George, Cedar City; STGnews Videocast, Photo Gallery
The Cedar City budget
Suddenly. the nostalgic mood shifted and the council got down to business discussing the 2015-2016 fiscal year budget. At the June 10 council meeting City Financial Finance Director Jason Norris informed the council there had been a change to the previously discussed budget.
The new budget included a raise for all elected officials whose pay was considered below the minimum earnings requirement allowed for them to accept retirement pay.
Utah Retirement Systems requires elected officials meet a minimum earnings requirement of $1,004 per month, Cedar City Human Resources and Risk Management agent Natasha Hirschi said.
Councilman Ron Adams said the retirement package is the only “full-time” benefit that Cedar City Council members receive since medical benefits, vacation days, sick pay and overtime are not a part of the package.
Even so, many of the council members expressed that they felt uncomfortable voting themselves a pay raise.
Councilman John Black said he wanted it on record that he doesn’t think any city council member should accept a pay raise during their term in office, so the pay difference he receives will be donated to leisure services to help pay for youth sports scholarships.
Councilman Fred Rowley read aloud an email that he sent to administrators and councilmen earlier in the week to show a public record of why he would be voting favorably for the pay raise.
Reminding others that the council seat is not owned by any member of the council who sits in it, but by the public, he said it is important to continue to entice quality individuals to share their time helping to make the community they live in a better place.
“Sometime during my final days of mayorship in Santa Clara, I said something to this effect to the city council,” Rowley said. “I want you to vote for a raise for the next mayor after my term is complete, we need to attract the best people this city has to serve in city government.”
The budget passed in a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Paul Cozzens dissenting. The reason he voted against it, he said before the meeting, was because he did not believe it was appropriate to vote himself a pay raise at all, even if there was a legitimate reason brought to the table.
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