City Councilman Ben Porter wants the city to "get off its duff" and monetarily take care of city employees serving in Operation Desert Storm.
But the city administration and Porter's fellow council members are sitting tight until they get more information on how to deal with the 11 employees gone off to war."Personally, I think we should be paying for their retirement, insurance and the difference in their pay they're getting from the war," Porter said in an interview before Tuesday's council meeting. The city is currently not picking up any of those costs.
In the meeting, Porter, a former Provo police officer, made a raised-voice, fist-pounding speech, calling the city's inaction to date "terrible."
"I think it's time Provo City gets off its duff and does something," he said.
The speech was followed by a motion for the city to begin immediately paying wages and benefits for the 11 soldiers.
"I won't accept that motion. It's out of order, Mr. Porter," Council Chairman Steve Clark said. Clark said the city needs more time to study the matter.
"We don't know what the costs are. We don't know what the legalities are," Clark said.
Both Porter and Councilman Stan Brown charged the city administration with being slow to help those serving in the Persian Gulf war.
"They have been dragging their feet," said Brown, a former city fire chief.
That's not necessarily so, said Raylene Ireland, administrative assistant to Mayor Joe Jenkins. The administration has been meeting with city employee representatives on a regular basis to discuss the situation, she said.
"The mayor is a fiscal conservative. . . . That doesn't mean he's not going to act," Ireland said. Jenkins is out of town and unavailable for comment. Ireland said the mayor has been waiting to see how the city's situation evolves before deciding how to proceed.
The administration has collected, through the city employees association, about $12,500 by inviting employees to give up a vacation day and then donating that day's pay to a fund for soldiers' families. Ireland said the 11 families are receiving on the average $200 a month from the fund.
But Porter said it's not the employees' responsibility to provide compensation for their colleagues.
"Why should city employees be stuck with this?" he said before the meeting. "I think that's a bunch of baloney."
Porter invited Lt. Col. Barry Verdon of the Utah National Guard to Tuesday's meeting to urge the council to act on the issue.
Verdon said Provo should pay for the wages and benefits because "it shows the city cares and has some heart." It gives the soldiers and their families one less thing to worry about during a time of great sacrifice, he said.
Coy Porter, a firefighter and Ben Porter's son, told the council, "I think action has been long overdue."