Smyrna Town Council narrowly passed a measure March 18 to make the town's Compensation Committee a standing committee that benchmarks the salaries for council members and town employees.

The motion was passed 4-3 with Councilman Robert Johnson, Councilman Jeff Flairty and Councilwoman Valerie White voting no.

The topic of the Compensation Committee has been discussed at the last few council meetings. White initiated talk of reinstating the committee and adding members so the committee could determine how much money council members should make per meeting. This conversation led to council voting what town committees should be standing committees. Initially the Compensation Committee was left off the standing committee list, but Councilwoman Regina Brown brought the topic back up again at the March 18 council meeting.

"In my opinion there's no reason the responsibilities of the Compensation Committee could not be expanded to include the employees of the town," Brown said.

Brown said it's important the town benchmark the pay of employees of other municipalities in the area to make sure Smyrna's employees are at least in line with other towns.

There were suggestions that the Finance or Personnel committees could be in charge of the task of benchmarking salaries, but Brown said both committees have full plates at the present time.

White disagreed with having one committee evaluate salaries of council members and town employees. Councilwoman Joanne Masten said there needs to be some sort of committee that at least gauges the pay of employees in other communities because the goal's not just to attract good employees but to retain the employees the town has.

Councilman Jeff Flairty said the talk of a Compensation Committee shows the town's weakness in that they don't have an appropriate human resources department. Masten agreed and said that the town needs the proper human resources mechanism in place either in-house or with a committee.

"We should have a human resources person, but we can't afford it," Masten said.

Councilman Anthony DeFeo said both sides make valid points, and that somewhere along the line human resources needs to be a budgeted line item.

"We're a corporation of over 100 employees with no HR department at all," DeFeo said.

Since the town expects to grow in population over the next several years, DeFeo said the size of the town staff is only going to grow. Moreover, he said an HR department is needed for other things such as an employee having a question about benefits.

Brown suggested the Compensation Committee just be an interim solution, but Flairty said the committee doing the work doesn't solve the long-term problem.

Mayor Pat Stombaugh said in the past when the town has used outside companies to do HR work, some town employees weren't happy with the results.

"I think it should be a job for someone outside of the town, because employees may open up more and be more comfortable with someone who's not an employee with the town," Stombaugh said.

Once council passed the motion, Brown added that the expanded responsibilities of the Compensation Committee are for the interim until the town can do more.

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