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City employees will find at least one of their 1996 Christmas presents on their first paycheck in June, a result of the City Council's approval of long-awaited wage increases.

"It's going to make a big difference," said Lori Brierly, Mapleton city recorder and employee representative. Along with the wage increases, the City Council voted to set a wage scale with a starting, middle and top-out range - something the city has not previously had.What that means for many long-term employees is a hefty raise. For instance, the current public works director has served the city 28 years with his current annual salary at $36,500. With the new wage scale, the starting annual wage would be $36,250, topping out at $62,288.

Other significant wage changes include the job of police chief. The current chief has served 15 years and is making $29,478, (that includes a nearly $5,000 increase two years ago). The new starting wage for the chief is $30,659 - it tops out at $46,082. The city recorder is making $23,140 after three years. The new scale for recorder begins at $29,757 and tops out at $45,154. After serving 10 years, the treasurer is making $23,868. Starting wage on the new scale is $23,788 topping at $34,305.

"I feel you pay a man a fair salary and you get a fair day's work from him," said Mayor Richard Maxfield. "Already employees are doing better just hearing about the raises. The women in the city office work hard, long hours. We've got good people and we need to pay them what they deserve."

All city employees from seasonal to full-time workers will see some increase in their wages. Most increases are fairly significant and are comparable with wages in surrounding communities.

Employee representatives have sought an increase for a long time. It has been hard to keep some employees for longer than six months. As soon as they find a better paying job, they leave.

According to Brierly, the wage increase had to happen. "I think it's catching up from years of being substandard, instead of us going to being leaders in the field," she said.

Annual reviews held in June will determine when and how much of an increase an employee will receive each year. The increases will be reflected in the annual budgets approved each July.