Trenton City Council selects new city attorney and prosecutor

City of Trenton website updated June 2023
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On voice votes, the Trenton City Council Tuesday evening selected the next city attorney and prosecutor. Members also voted to raise the hourly wage of the lowest-paid workers in the water and sewer distribution department to equal that of a beginning employee for that group. Seven members of the council attended the special meeting. Duane Urich was absent.

With Tara Walker leaving her employment as City Attorney and Prosecutor, Trenton received proposals from two firms. After review, the council selected the law firm of Murphy, Kinney, and Sumy of Kansas City beginning in the new year. Specifically, former Trenton resident Kenton Kinney will be the contact.

The other proposal came from Chapman and Cowherd P.C. of Chillicothe, which indicated any of three persons on their staff could provide legal representation for Trenton. No commitment to attend in person was made since they represent 10 towns.

In his research, Kinney mentioned the experience and knowledge he has gained in complex civil practice will benefit what he described as his “hometown.” Kinney, who resides in Kearney, pledged to attend Trenton City Council meetings in person and the two dates each month that municipal court is in session. He also plans to “job shadow” Attorney Walker before she leaves her position.

Kinney quoted a monthly payment retainer as City Attorney of $2,000; plus $150 an hour if in excess of 13 hours a month. For the prosecutor, he quoted a monthly retainer of $3,500 plus $150 an hour for legal services that exceed 20 hours per month. Both have additional costs for travel time and mileage from Kearney.

In his research, Kinney wrote the current City Attorney receives a monthly retainer of $1,000 and was paid $130 per hour for legal services that exceed 13 hours per month.

The employment contract for the Kansas City law firm—and in particular with Kenton Kinney—will be considered by the City Council in the form of an ordinance. The contract would cover a one-year period.

On the other topic before the City Council yesterday, Mayor Jackie Soptic said the city lacks a consistent structure regarding the wages of departmental workers. That became more evident last week when the council reviewed the minutes of the late November meeting. At that time, a motion was approved to set the starting pay for a new water and sewer distribution worker at $18.57 per hour without a CDL. That’s a $2.85 an hour increase in the beginning wage for this department. City Administrator Ron Urton assumed the increase would apply to current workers within the department, and each got a $2.85 an hour increase in their paycheck. Urton noted that’s the way increases were done (in the past 3 years) for existing employees of the police department and the electric department when the starting, or entry-level, pay was raised. Some on the council said they intended to increase the wages of all workers in water & sewer distribution. But that was not the way it was verbally stated when the motion received council approval three weeks ago, as ultimately provided in the minutes. After much discussion, Councilman Glen Briggs made the motion – and it got a second – to raise the lowest wages for water and sewer distribution employees to be the same as the new entry-level wage. The motion was approved. Information provided by TMU shows three current employees get the boost to $18.57 an hour. Each of them has been employed with the city for two years or less. Wages are higher than entry-level for a department worker with nearly five years of employment, a foreman who has more than 15 years of employment, and a supervisor who has nearly 32 years of employment. Each of these three has its DS3 certification.

Water and sewer distribution is often referred to as the “underground” department since that’s where their work occurs. Information was given that since the first of this calendar year (Jan 1) there have been 66 “after-hour call-outs” regarding water and sewer emergency repairs. Many of them involved breaks that occur in those lines.

The City Council, upon the recommendation of city leaders, had increased the starting wage for this department in an effort to attract applicants for open positions. TMU department heads attended the council meeting. Several councilmen indicated their desire to discuss possibly raising the starting wages of other city departments.

In a November meeting, city and TMU employees received a six-and-a-half percent cost of living allowance which took effect with paychecks in December. Among them, the salary of City Administrator/Utility Director Ron Urton is $97,000 plus benefits.

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