WDM Mayor Could be Forced to Oppose Polk County Minimum Wage Hike

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- It has been a historic year for West Des Moines with over $1 billion in building permits in 2016.

New and upcoming projects near South 60th street show that.

"We have about 60,000 jobs in West Des Moines," said West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer.

But with a Polk County Task Force recommending an increase in minimum wage, Mayor Gaer is worried it could impact jobs in Dallas County, which is separated by South 60th Street from Polk County.

"36,000 of them are in Polk County and 24,000 in Dallas County and we believe it wouldn`t be fair if we have a different minimum wage in West Des Moines in Polk County versus Dallas County. The task force's recommended increase of $8.75 the first year is $1.50 more than the current minimum wage in Iowa. For West Des Moines full-time workers that is a difference of over $3,000 a year, just by simply being on the east side of South 60th Street,” Gaer said. "On the Dallas County side, you have the Holiday Inn, Trader Joe's, TJ Maxx. Literally across the street, you have Drury Inn, you have REI and soon a container store and Caribou Coffee. It's not going to be fair to businesses and employees to have different rules literally across the street in the same city."

Mayor Gaer believes employees at Jordan Creek Mall in Dallas County may be swayed to jump ship to Valley West Mall which sits in Polk County.

"Employees would go to the higher paying jobs and businesses might struggle then."

Gaer says he supports raising the minimum wage, but he wants state legislation to handle it, not individual counties, so his city which also sprawls into Warren and Madison counties, will have a consistent one.

"If the legislature doesn't deal with this we could have four different minimum wages in the city of West Des Moines."

Approval of the raise could come as soon as next month in Polk County but Mayor Gaer has recommended that the Polk County Board of Supervisors delay any approval of an increase until July 1,  2017, so state legislators have more time to deal with the issue and make it a statewide increase.