Minturn looks to play catch-up on wages |

Minturn looks to play catch-up on wages

Chris Outcalt
Vail CO Colorado

MINTURN, Colorado ” Minturn has proposed an aggressive increase to staff wages in an attempt to stay competitive in the regional job market.

The Town Council got its first look on Wednesday at a 2009 budget that included a proposed 8.8 percent increase to employee salaries. Minturn has traditionally proposed cost-of-living increases between 3 percent and 5 percent. But even in tough economic times, when much of the town’s revenue is projected flat, interim Town Manager Gary Suiter said the increase is necessary for Minturn to keep pace with its neighbors.

“It’s really important in resort communities, particular in a town like Minturn,” Suiter said. “We have to compete with Vail and Avon and Eagle in order to be able to attract and maintain quality employees.”

Minturn hasn’t adjusted its base wages since 2006, and it’s become a problem, Suiter said.

He’s researched average salaries for the area, but he said the best indicator of whether the town’s pay rate is appropriate is its ability to hire quality employees.

“Yes, depending on the position, it has hurt us,” Suiter said.

Mayor Gordon “Hawkeye” Flaherty said the town has had difficulty keeping the Police Department fully staffed because of salaries and lack of housing. The town also had to adjust the town manager’s salary in order to bring Suiter on in an interim status, Flaherty said.

“When we hired him, we had to up the salary so that we could get him on board,” Flaherty said.

In addition to the 8.8 percent wage increase, Suiter also considered proposing a 5 percent merit increase for employees, but he backed off the hike because he though a 13 percent jump wouldn’t be approved.

An agreement between the town and the Ginn Co. ” which plans to build a private golf-and-ski resort on Battle Mountain ” states Minturn will receive $832,224 toward its 2009 payroll. The money will pay about half the town’s staff.

But Suiter said the payroll assistance isn’t the reason he proposed the salary increase.

“It was influenced more by the market of comparable positions in comparable resort communities,” Suiter said.

Ginn agreed to the salary reimbursements in order to compensate for staff time used on the project, Suiter said.

The town could also use the money to hire additional staff in the future, Suiter said.

“If Ginn really ramps up, then we’ll need to ramp up,” Suiter said.

Other Vail Valley municipalities have proposed more conservative salary increases for 2009.

Vail hasn’t proposed an across-the-board salary adjustment in the 10 years Human Resources Manager Krista Miller has been there. The town offers merit raises to its employees, she said.

Traditionally the town offers as much as a 5 percent merit raise, but it is offering 6 percent this year, Miller said.

Employees would be eligible for the raise at the time of their annual reviews. The proposal has yet to be approved by the Town Council.

Eagle County Human Resources Director Nora Fryklund said the county has yet to finalize what annual raise employees will receive, but she said it typically falls between 3 percent and 5 percent.

If the Minturn Town Council approves Suiter’s 8.8 percent increase, it would cost the town about an additional $62,000.

“These numbers are particularly low for staff in this area,” Councilor Shelley Bellm said. “We’re not going to get quality staff if our wages continue to stay this low.”

The Town Council will review the budget again at its Nov. 4 meeting.

Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or

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