The Kelso City Council on Thursday approved a 2.5 percent wage increase for all non-union city employees in 2018.

Department heads will get an additional 5 percent increase. These positions include the police chief, finance director/city clerk, public works director, public works supervisor, community development director and library manager.

Councilman Rick Von Rock said he was in “total agreement” with the action.

“It’s hard to get good staff and retain good staff,” Von Rock said. “We have staff and department heads that are doing great work, (and) our city has been benefiting from the work they have been doing.”

Councilwoman Nancy Malone cast the sole “No” vote on pay increases. Councilman Rick Roberson was absent.

The Daily News typically reports the top earners in the city each year, but the information was not available Tuesday. The adjusted salaries will be reported later this week.

In other business, the council unanimously renewed a contract with the city prosecuting attorney, which also included a wage increase. The attorney’s rate is now $3,550 per month with an additional flat rate of $500 per jury trial for the first four jury trials.

Additional jury trials will have a flat rate of $650. The city prosecutor attorney handles all misdemeanor cases, such as domestic violence, third-degree theft and shoplifting.

The council also voted to renew the Lodging Tax “Big Idea” agreement with Cowlitz County. The six-year-old program pools money from cities throughout the county to fund larger promotional projects in the individual communities on a rotation. Kelso has typically contributed about $7,600 a year.

City Manager Steve Taylor said the program has become cumbersome. He recommended withdrawing from the agreement and having cities apply directly to the county for grants, but the council rebuffed him.

Councilman Larry Alexander, a member of the Big Idea Board, said he has been impressed with what the program has accomplished in smaller communities.

“The benefits from this program, if done properly, are astronomical and I would support continuing (the program) if the county wanted to,” Alexander said.

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