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Countermine changes tune about compensation

Two weeks after saying he would never vote for compensation of elected officials in Jonesborough, Alderman Terry Countermine changed his tune at a called meeting held Feb. 28.
Countermine said he now was willing to vote for the compensation of Board of Mayor and Aldermen members because he believed adjustments made to the original resolution were a fair compromise.
“I feel compromise worked. I feel this is not hurting the citizens and it’s fair,” Countermine said. “I still hope that people do it out of service and not for any financial benefit.”
On Feb. 14, Mayor Kelly Wolfe cast the tie-breaking vote to approve the compensation of BMA members at $100 per month for members who take part in the BMA meeting and at least one committee meeting per month. The compensation would be $200 for members taking part in more committee meetings than just one per month.
At the time, Countermine and Alderman Jerome Fitzgerald both objected to the resolution, which was tied into other changes being made to the Town’s charter.
While it passed 3-2 at the BMA level, the state must approve the proposed charter changes and then return them to the BMA, where they must be passed by a two-thirds majority, meaning either Countermine or Fitzgerald would have to change his mind on the issue.
“After your last meeting, there was some discussion,” said Town Attorney Jim Wheeler at the called meeting. “We wanted to make sure that everyone could support this.”
With the changes, the compensation plan will not go into effect until after the next town election. This gives residents the option of choosing a candidate based on whether they plan on taking the compensation, Wheeler said.
In addition, any proposed increase to the amount of compensation being offered would have to go before a referendum for the voters to decide.
Originally, the resolution required any proposed compensation increases have to be taken to the state and changed in the charter.
As a means of strengthening the oversight of any possible increase in compensation, the revised resolution will give town residents the authority to approve or deny the increase.
Compensation for BMA members would be optional. Those members choosing not to take the money would not be issued a check.
Alderman Chuck Vest made a motion to approve the proposed amendment to the resolution, with Countermine making the second. The motion passed 4-1, with Fitzgerald casting the dissenting vote.
“I knew coming in to this that it was as a volunteer and I don’t think we ought to be compensated,” Fitzgerald said after the meeting. “It’s going to encourage people to run, but I don’t know if it’s because they want to serve or because of the benefits that come with it.”
If approved as proposed, the compensation of BMA members could not go into effect before December 2012.