The Knoxville City Council narrowly approved ratifying a contract to name Nicholas Bonstell, of Holland, Michigan, as the new fire chief. The 3-2 vote was not a matter of preference of candidates, but rather a debate on salary. City Manager Harold Stewart told the Council that he offered the position to Bonstell this morning at a salary of $55,000, the maximum amount that was advertised. Bonstell requested that the salary be adjusted to $59,000. Stewart and the Council compared that figure during the meeting to the fire chief salary of other similar towns in Iowa, including Oskaloosa, Grinnell, and Creston. The $59,000 amount was lower than almost every salary that was compared. Many comparable towns paid their fire chiefs a salary that was in the low $60,000 range. Stewart indicated to the Council that he believed that if the salary was not raised to $59,000, both Bonstell and another qualified candidate would turn down the offer.
In the end, the vote was 3-2 to approve the ratification of the contract at $59,000, with counselors Pitt, Roozenboom, and Formanek voting yes. They each spoke about the need for the salary figure to be competitive and how the City needed to move forward. Counselors Verwers and Kemp voted against the ratification. Verwers said that the candidates knew the salary range coming in and the City shouldn’t increase it.