Fort McMurray wildfire: councillors approve hefty pay hike for themselves for recovery work

Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo hosts special council meeting in Edmonton Wednesday, May 11, 2016. Kent Morrison, Global News

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. – Councillors from a northeastern Alberta municipality severely damaged by a huge forest fire have voted themselves a hefty raise.

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo includes the city of Fort McMurray, which saw more than 80,000 residents flee from the wildfire that destroyed several neighbourhoods seven weeks ago.

Council voted Tuesday night to pay three of its members and Mayor Melissa Blake $150,000 a year to work full time on a recovery committee.

The other seven councillors, whose positions are considered part time, will see their pay rise to $75,000 a year from $36,000.

READ MORE: Fort McMurray contractors claim they’re being left out of wildfire cleanup

Councillors on the recovery committee are Keith McGrath, Sheldon Germain, Allan Vinni and the mayor.

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The bylaw passed 7-4, with Blake and councillors Jane Stroud, Phil Meagher and Tyran Ault opposed.

Blake, Stroud and Ault said after the council meeting they will not take the salary increase.

READ MORE: Federal government commits $300M in disaster recovery funds to Alberta

The bylaw states committee members who are also councillors “shall devote their effort and attention to the work of the committee as they would to a full-time job, and thus shall take steps to reduce their time commitment to their other business interests or employment as may be required in order to devote such level of effort and attention to their committee duties for so long as the post-wildfire recovery period lasts.”

It says the other councillors “will be required to devote an increased level of effort and attention to their council duties and activities since the normal council and council committee work will continue.”

The committee begins work Wednesday and six members of the public are to be appointed following a selection process.

Once all members have been chosen, a chair and vice-chair will be selected.

READ MORE: Fort McMurray fire chief Darby Allen, Mayor Melissa Blake, first responders named among K-Days Parade marshals

Coun. Colleen Tatum explained in a Facebook post why she is accepting the pay raise.

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“Child care, lost time in my business, lost opportunities elsewhere, do cost me much more than I ever earn,” she said. “It does seem obscene on face value, to ask for a raise in these extreme and very hard times, but the justification I do feel is there.”

With files from CJOK.

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