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A marijuana leaf is held. (Photo: Nastasic, Getty Images)

Redding is putting license permit fees paid by the city’s cannabis industry to work, using them to pay for a raise for Redding’s top two legal staffers who have additional duties as the city’s cannabis industry expands.

By a 3-2 vote during their meeting on Tuesday night, the council amended the annual salary of City Attorney Barry DeWalt by 10%. The council also voted to increase the pay and pay range for Assistant City Attorney Jacob Baldwin by 10%.

Both increases are effective as of this past Sunday and include the addition of duties resulting from the reorganization of several city departments.

City Manager Barry Tippin said the increases were necessary because more of the work of regulating the flourishing cannabis industry is falling to the city’s legal officials. “What we found over the last two years is that it is has taken a lot of effort,” said Tippin.

Actions related to “going after illegal cannabis grows” puts a burden on the city attorney’s office due to fines and enforcement hearings, he said, and makes more work for other city hall staff.

In its reorganization, the code enforcement division has been assigned to the city attorney’s office, with the assistant city attorney now supervising the four-member code enforcement division’s staff, according to the staff report.

More: Public hearing on cannabis business comes before Redding Planning Commission on Tuesday

With those additional duties, Tippin said, “the pay that was being offered was not reflective of that additional responsibility.”

The reorganizations follow last month’s departure of Development Services Department Director Larry Vaupel.

The 10% salary increase for the city attorney and assistant city attorney comes to $30,000 annually. DeWalt’s annual salary in 2019 was $191,722, according to Transparent California. The current salary adjustment would raise DeWalt’s annual salary to $207,708.80, according to the staff report.

The recommended raise amounts are in line with “how we’ve treated these items in the past and representative of a common raise associated with promotions,” said Tippin.

Money needed for the salary boosts will come from license permit fees paid by cannabis companies, which each pay about $30,000 a year to operate in the city, said Tippin. Money from cannabis license permit fees is restricted to uses associated with cannabis regulation activities, he said.

Council member Kristen Schreder voted in favor of the measure, as did council members Erin Resner and Julie Winter. “I think it’s a really great idea. I believe that this is a cost-effective way to address a problem that we have in code enforcement,” said Schreder.

Council member Michael Daquisto voted against the measure, saying there weren’t sufficient new duties being imposed on the city attorney’s office to justify a raise. “I think they essentially do the work already,” Daquisto said.

Mayor Adam McElvain also cast a no vote, saying a decision on the raises should be made in six months “make sure that the transition works and that it’s effective.”

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In other action, the council voted unanimously on Tuesday to use money from cannabis sales taxes, another growing area, to buy four new engines for the city’s fire department.

“We need desperately to replace these fire engines,” said Tippin. “Even with this purchase of four … it gets us a long ways, but we still need more over the next few years.”

He said $1.5 million of anticipated money from the cannabis sales tax will be used to buy the fire apparatus. “We’re pretty comfortable right now that the cannabis tax is going to be in excess of $1.5 million, more likely $2 million, or more,” said Tippin.

The city’s share of taxes collected from cannabis companies is already on track to surpass the amount collected last year, city officials said.

Cannabis tax revenue for the fiscal year ended in June was $793,948. So far in the current fiscal year, which began in July, the city has collected $404,029, said Redding Finance Director Allyn Feci Clark on Sept. 19.

Redding now has two cannabis cultivation businesses, while five retail cannabis companies have opened in Redding since the city gave approval for cannabis firms to operate starting in 2018. More cannabis firms are preparing to open.

Michele Chandler covers city government and housing issues for the Redding Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. Follow her on Twitter at @MChandler_RS, call her at 530-225-8344 or email her at [email protected] Please support our entire newsroom’s commitment to public service journalism by subscribing today.

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