Harkensville residents urged city officials at a meeting Monday to reject a pay hike in solidarity with many in the city who are struggling in the down economy. Resident Keith Carter of Fortuna Avenue said it was disconcerting that city officials could vote to raise their own pay, especially when times were tough for the community’s former shoe factory workers. Members of the Harkensville City Council unanimously approved a 1.5 percent pay increase for themselves, Mayor Nancy McDish and the new city manager, Mike Reston, despite the objections. The council members will receive an increase of just under $100 in their current annual compensation of $5,600. The mayor’s annual salary of $65,400 will increase by $981. The city manager will see his $143,000 annual pay increase by $2,145. The increases are retroactive to July 1.
Community First Coalition president Gideon Stalwart opposes the Walmart store planned for Church Street in the center of Harkensville. During the public comment period at Monday’s meeting of the Harkensville City Council, Stalwart said Walmart received special treatment from city planners to build the 30,000 square foot store with limited parking in what’s an especially congested part of the city. “Walmart should have been made to follow the same rules as everyone else,” Stalwart said. He announced that the coalition had filed a lawsuit Monday accusing the city of illegally issuing building permits to Walmart for the Church Street store. The coalition is seeking an injunction to block the store’s groundbreaking set for next month. “The planning process takes a long time,” Anthony Marcello, the city’s attorney, told the City Council members. “You can’t just start the process all over again.” Stalwart said the coalition wants a new environmental impact review to be done and the proposed store’s parking plan to be reassessed. It would also allow opponents to appeal the matter to the City Council.