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City scrambles to get mayor’s 49% raise finalized & Old Main contract approved

Yesterday, notice went out from City of Ferndale staff that 1 of 3 previously canceled council committee meetings was going to be held after all. The Finance & Administration Committee (FAC) meeting was rescheduled for 10am Wednesday, May 1st, in the City Hall main conference room with 2 items on the agenda. The mayor’s salary increase and a contract to “perform structural, engineering, and related analysis for the possible acquisition and conversion of the Old Main building for City purposes.”

The next city council meeting would typically be Monday, May 6th. But that meeting was canceled so councilmembers could attend a council retreat postponed earlier this year. Accordingly, council committee meetings that would be held tomorrow, May 1st, were also canceled. That is, until yesterday’s notice went out that the FAC would be convened.

During the last Ferndale City Council meeting on April 15th, councilmembers approved a significant salary increase for whoever is elected mayor beginning January 1, 2020. But, according to a staff report provided by Communications Officer Riley Sweeney, “City staff was caught somewhat unprepared and did not have an ordinance prepared to change the salary.”

The council approved a 49% salary increase for the position of mayor increasing the monthly salary from $1,679 to $2,500 per month ($20,148 to $30,000 per year) with a vote of 4 to 3 (Teresa Taylor, Kate Hansen, Fred Kennedy and Rebecca Xczar in favor – Cathy Watson, Greg Hansen and Keith Olson opposed).

A scramble appears to be happening to get a vote on the ordinance in front of the council before the May 17th deadline for Whatcom County candidates to file for this year’s General Election.

FAC is made up of councilmembers Keith Olson, Greg Hansen and Kate Hansen.

According to Sweeney,

While council’s intentions were clear, the proper procedure still needs to be followed and an ordinance passed to carry out council’s actions. With this seat up for election in 2019 and filing week fast approaching (May 13th-17th), Debbie Adelstein, our County Auditor, would like some clarity for her materials since the filing fee is determined by the salary of the position and is published as part of the voters guide.

However the May 6th council meeting has been canceled to make time for a council retreat. This leaves a couple of options available:

1) The Council could adopt this measure as part of a quick business portion of the retreat

2) Vote to place it on the consent agenda for the May 20th meeting.

3) Vote to place it on the regular agenda for the May 20th meeting

4) Choose to discuss it at a later time.

Further complicating matters, for this ordinance to pass, it will require four yes votes, despite this body only being six members at this time due to the resignation of Councilmember Fred Kennedy.

Staff felt uncomfortable making decisions on when and where to place this measure on the agenda and is seeking council guidance.

FAC members will be able to discuss and vote on what direction staff should take during their Wednesday meeting.

In addition to the mayor salary ordinance, FAC members will be asked to provide approval of a $32,000 contract to perform an assessment of the Ferndale High School “Old Main” building for use by the city. Initial intentions, according to City Administrator Jori Burnett, is to acquire and convert the 1930’s school building for City Hall, Council Chambers and Ferndale Municipal Court functions. The building is currently slated to be torn down to make room for a new school building and sports fields.

The study is necessary to move to the next step in discussions with the District. The City does not have the benefit of time to substantially delay this study without delaying the District. Staff recommends that the Council allow, by consent, Staff to enter into the contract.

The 2016 update of the Ferndale Comprehensive Plan included plans “for an expansion, relocation, or development of new City Hall and court/council facilities by 2027,” according to a detailed staff report provided by Burnett (PDF).

City of Ferndale Council Committee meetings are open to the public.


  1. Gordie Thomas April 30, 2019

    We were told old main was a tear down. now you want to spend $30,000 to determine that it is still a piece of junk and then spend untold dollars to save it. There is something wrong with this if the oversight committee if they don’t take action against that crap.

  2. Mandi Mae May 3, 2019

    Yeah this sounds super sketchy on the City and Council part on bringing forward to pass an increase in the Mayor’s salary. He’s making just as much as a full time employee for the City when he’s never there. The Council should start handing out pay raises for the actual full time hard working employees. Now we know why the Mayor got rid of the City Admin and trying to double our water bills. Election is coming Council.

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