Basalt council gives manager raise and severance security
Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon got a vote of confidence and a healthy raise from the Town Council this week.
The council conducted Scanlon’s annual performance review behind closed doors after a lengthy meeting Tuesday night, then emerged and voted 7-0 to extend his contract into 2018 and increase his pay 5.6 percent to $154,161 from $146,000, according to Mayor Jacque Whitsitt.
Other perks given to Scanlon were an increase in his retirement contribution from 5 to 10 percent and a guarantee that he will receive one year of severance pay if he is fired prior to Jan. 1, 2018. At that time, the severance agreement will revert back to eight months of pay.
A resolution approved by the council explains the increase in the retirement plan contribution: “This is being done to reflect the exceptional work that was accomplished by Mr. Scanlon in 2014.”
The resolution also states that the extension of possible severance pay reflects the times in Basalt: “This increase in severance is to account for the increased job volatility that’s present during large-scale redevelopment.”
Scanlon was hired in October 2012 and was confronted with controversial issues from the start. He hasn’t shied away from tough topics.
A community uproar over the departure of former police chief Roderick O’Connor was underway when Scanlon joined Basalt. He enlisted critics onto a selection committee and ultimately hired Greg Knott as police chief in what’s been welcomed as a positive move.
In 2013 and into 2014, Scanlon oversaw the removal of 38 mobile homes from the Pan and Fork site and relocation of 341 residents. In 2014 and into 2015, he has headed efforts to plan for the future of the Pan and Fork. Scanlon has walked a high wire between two community factions butting heads over how much of the Pan and Fork should be developed and how much should be left open. He engineered what appears to be a possible compromise.
Scanlon wasn’t at the closed session for his review or the vote on the resolution extending his contract. He said Wednesday he proposed the increase in the severance package because the 2016 election could potentially bring changes. A no-growth or pro-growth faction in the Pan and Fork debate could carry the election and alter the makeup of the board. If a no-growth majority wins the election, “they come in wanting to change things.” The first thing they would consider is firing the manager to ensure development is slowed.
Requiring the one-year severance pay might prevent an itchy trigger finger, he suggested. Scanlon figures the supercharged political atmosphere will die down by the 2018 election cycle. If not, maybe it will be time for a change and he should move on, he said.
Scanlon signed a three-year contract when he was hired, with annual review. That contract was extended before it expired.
As part of his review, Scanlon filled out a report that contended the town government completed 71 percent of the 2014 Work Plan that was prepared by the staff and approved by the council.
The work plan’s strategic goals fell under fiscally responsible and responsive (63 percent completed); caring and safe place (75 percent completed); excellence in governance (69 percent completed); economic vitality (63 percent completed); and planning resiliency (83 percent completed).
Scanlon listed the town government’s issuance of $8 million in bonds to provide “conduit financing” for Rocky Mountain Institute to help fund their construction of an Innovation Center and office building in Basalt as a top accomplishment in 2014.
Refinancing of existing town bonds at a lower interest rate shaved the government $120,000 in interest.
The 2014 Work Plan accomplishments list also included securing funds to build a pedestrian underpass of Highway 82 at Basalt Avenue. The project will begin this year.
Scanlon said Wednesday he always shoots to complete at least 75 percent of an annual work plan. Nevertheless, he felt Basalt made good strides last year with a 71 percent completion rate.
To put Scanlon’s pay in perspective, Aspen City Manager Steve Barwick makes $173,763. Snowmass Village Town Manager Clint Kinney, who was hired last summer, has a base salary of $145,000.
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