HUDSON — Emotions ran high during last week’s city council meeting as several residents expressed their displeasure with both City Manager Jane Howington and council members for not being responsive to their objections regarding proposed city projects.
One of the items on the Oct. 2 agenda was a 1.5 percent pay raise for Howington, which council approved by a 5-1 vote, with member Beth Bigham (Ward 4) dissenting. Howington’s salary was increased from $157,500 to $160,000, retroactive to Aug. 1.
Before the vote, Howington and council members were criticized by several residents in connection with plans for Downtown Phase II, proposed changes to the Land Development Code, as well as the possibility of expanding citywide broadband to residential homes, plans for a solar panel project, and for not addressing items such as fixing roads.
Norton Road resident Rhonda Grainger said "many residents are very upset" about the increase in the city manager’s salary.
"We are not seeing much bang for our buck," stated Grainger. "We see roads that are barely navigable and yet we’re talking about raising a salary very high."
Grainger noted she recently moved back to Hudson because she felt her concerns would be heard by city leaders.
"I have been just so appalled at what is going on here," said Grainger. "We’re not seeing results that we need to see. I don’t think we’re getting better services just to raise a salary [of] somebody that we’re not real pleased with right now."
Howington did not respond to messages seeking comment by press time. Howington was at the Oct. 2 meeting; she did not address the criticisms directed at her during her manager’s report, but other council members came to her defense.
Council President Bill Wooldredge (At Large) said it was "unfortunate" that some residents directed their criticism toward Howington.
"It’s really the responsibility of council to come up with the strategy, the direction and the actions, and it’s the responsibility of the city manager and the staff to carry them out," said Wooldredge. "I guess if you’re really mad about some things, you ought to focus on me and some of the other members of council."
He noted he felt Howington does "a very good job."
Council member Hal DeSaussure (At Large) said he agreed with Wooldredge, adding he felt council was "underpaying" Howington.
"She’s doing exactly what we’re asking her to do," said DeSaussure. "She is an effective manager."
Andover Way resident Jennifer Trautman said she agreed with the "frustration regarding the raise in Ms. Howington’s salary."
"I think the council should operate such that raises be given based on exceptional performance," said Trautman. "When your constituents are unhappy with your performance, you don’t get a raise, you don’t get a bonus."
She suggested that a bonus could be awarded based on merit or performance.
"When things start going well for this community and progress is in the right direction and choices are made to fix our roads and add sidewalks and make our streets safer and people are pleased, then we can award bonuses," said Trautman. "Anything short of that is ridiculous."
Before the vote on Howington’s salary, Bigham said that she did not want "to give the oppositional details that I hold. Out of respect for the city manager position, I’m not going to do that." Bigham drew applause from some residents when she noted she would be voting "no."
DeSaussure added, "If you don’t like council, vote us off, but so far, we haven’t been. It’s up to you." Some residents applauded when DeSaussure said "vote us off."
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.