By Brett Nachtigall
HOT SPRINGS – Following a near three-hour executive session at the end of their Monday, March 7 meeting, the Hot Springs City Council unanimously approved a $1.00 per hour wage increase for all current full-time and part-time city employees, effective the following day on March 8, 2022.
The motion included an exception for the positions of Police Captain, Police Officers, PT Lifeguards & PT Head Lifeguard, which all saw increases earlier this year.
Prior to executive session, the council discussed and approved a number of other items, while also hearing during Communications from the Public a plan by Larry David of Hot Springs, along with two business partners from Rapid City, to establish a Medical Cannabis business in Hot Springs. David said their business is planned to be located in the former GMC of Chadron building between Dairy Queen and Sonny’s Super Foods.
David said they have applied for one of the city’s two available dispensary licenses but would also like to establish an indoor hydroponic cultivation business in the city limits as well, to supply his dispensary business, but is running into some issues preventing that due to the city’s current zoning ordinance, which allows for two dispensaries but does not adequately address the cultivation license. Mayor Bob Nelson asked that David address his questions and concerns with the Public Safety Committee.
During discussion of David’s interest in opening a Medical Cannabis business in Hot Springs, it was pointed out by Councilman Bill Lukens that currently, due to state guidelines, the only revenue municipalities is the $5,000 license fee being charged by the city. At this time, there is not a provision that allows any sales tax to be collected that would stay with the city for sales of Medical Cannabis.
Also during the first part of the meeting last week, the council unimously approved a request by Jack Schoof, who is the owner of Misty River Tavern, LLC, to transfer the retail on-sale liquor license, previously owned by Consoer Corp., dba Bourbon County, for use at this establishment at 705 N. River Street.
Following questions by the councilmembers, Schoof, who currently lives in Prescott, Ariz., said he and his local business partners are excited to be a new part of the community. He added that he has 40 years of business experience but this is his first time owning a restaurant. They plan to be open year-round and open daily for food and drinks. Several audience members spoke in support of the new business.
Considerable discussion was also held in regards to the possibility of the city to pay for volunteer food, snacks and beverages. Mayor Nelson asked that the topic be put on the agenda as a discussion item only after it had become an issue last year when Recreation Director Kathy Hren had used money in her budget to purchase donuts and beverages for several volunteers who helped move gymnastics equipment, owned by the Hot Springs School District, but utilized by the city for the gymnastics program that is part of the city’s youth Summer Rec program.
Mayor Nelson pointed out that the $64 to purchase the snacks for the volunteers was far less than it would have cost to hire workers to perform the duties, and thus wanted the council’s input on how to handle this in the future. It was his general contention that if the duties performed by volunteers was due to a lack of city staff to perform the duties themselves, then it seemed to be warranted and make sense to offset the significant staffing costs with the minimal cost of snacks.
Councilman Craig Romey was opposed to using tax payer dollars for snacks and highlighted a concern of how the city would pick and choose which volunteers to compensate, when all their efforts benefitted the city in some way. Audience member Gerald Collogan provided some input along those same lines and asked if the Hot Springs Rotary Club would be able to have a meal served in their honor when they do things like constructing picnic shelters in the parks.
A number of councilmembers, as well as audience members, said they would donate the funds needed to purchase snacks and beverages for volunteers, if there was too much concern about using tax payer dollars to purchase such things.
No official action was taken by the city council or mayor regarding the topic.
The council also changed the “Golf Course Pro Shop Manager” job description to “Golf Operations Manager” and also updated some of the duties of the position while also adjusting Top-of-Scale for the position from $15.14/hr. to $21.00/hr. (exempt) plus 25 % of lessons.
In his explanation of the changes to the position, City Administrator Jeff Temple said the increase in pay can be covered by increasing the rounds of golf sold per year by 400, which he feels is very attainable. Temple added that he wants the Golf Course Superintendent Jason Happe to remain focused on keeping the course itself in shape, with the new Golf Operations Manager focused on generating revenue for the course, with the goal to no longer have to budget an annual subsidy to cover expenses at the golf course.
Councilman Romey was the lone dissenting vote of the changed to the position. Kathi Jirsa has held the position of Golf Course Pro Shop Manager for the past several years, but announced her retirement last summer. Her official last day will be effective May 1, 2022.