City to pay Detective Kleiber

Council reverses policy, letting him keep city, military leave pay

Under considerable public pressure, the City Council agreed Tuesday to allow police Detective Dave Kleiber to keep his city pay and military leave pay, reversing a city policy and giving Kleiber some peace of mind before leaving to fight in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Dressed in military uniform and given a leave of absence from his station in Fort Carson, Kleiber, a U.S. Special Operations commander already deployed, came before the City Council Tuesday night requesting a change to the policy.

"Sometimes the battle is worth fighting for. It just takes a while," Kleiber said after the council's decision. "I am humbled by the amount of community support I received on this."

For the past three years, Kleiber has said the city should pay his regular salary during the first 15 days of military leave. The city believed it was following the law by covering the difference between what he would be paid through the city and how much he earns as a National Guardsman.

It costs the city $2,559 a year to pay Kleiber annually for 15 days of military leave.

City Council Pro Tempore Paul Strong said the city's position was legal, but felt the city should pay the full salary.

"He is going over there and will possibly be put in harm's way for all of us. The right thing for the city to do is to pay the full salary just for the 15-day period," Strong said.

Kleiber had the backing of the American Legion, Routt County Veterans and Routt County Republican Party.

Residents came to Tuesday night's council meeting wearing red and blue blinking American flag pins and brown and yellow American Legion hats. As former military men entered Centennial Hall, they saluted the American flag.

"We have the responsibility to aid and support the gentlemen and women who are in the war today," American Legion representative Mike Flanders said. "We must support them. Our very way of life and our lives depend on it."

The council did discuss how the change in policy could impact future budgets. Councilman Bud Romberg said once the policy changes, it would apply to any National Guardsmen or reservists, a number that would fluctuate.

"We need to at least consider that when we start with this we are opening a policy (that could apply) to 50 people," Romberg said. "We are setting a precedent here."

Councilman Loui Antonucci said that because full salaries already are put in the budget, the city has set aside each year the amount of money a National Guardsman or reservist would get paid during military leave.

The City Council had discussed Kleiber's situation in executive session, but Tuesday was the first time the matter had come before the council in a public hearing.

In other business:

n The council approved the preliminary plat and development plan for Wildhorse Market-place. The council decided that $23,000 the developers were supposed to pay for road improvements to two nearby intersections could go toward trails, instead. The intersections already have been improved.

n The council approved a resolution in opposition to Refer-endum A. The November ballot question will ask Colorado residents to approve a tax that could raise $2 billion in revenue bonds for water projects. Colorado Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, came to the council meeting to speak against Referendum A.

n The council tabled a resolution in support of the Colorado Tourism Initiative, Refer-endum 33, on November's ballot. The referendum is asking voters to allow video terminal lottery machines, which would raise an estimated $25 million for tourism promotion.

n Atmos Energy announced that natural gas prices could see a 10 percent to 15 percent increase. On Oct. 15, the company will ask the Public Utility Commission to increase its rates.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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