Parkersburg council to discuss raises Tuesday

PARKERSBURG – City Council next week will consider the first reading of an ordinance aimed at not only giving employees raises but bringing salaries more in line with comparable positions around the state.

The meeting is slated for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers at the Municipal Building.

The pay ordinance was referred to the full council from the Personnel Committee on Aug. 6. It includes changes in classification to a number of positions and pay increases for some classifications, in addition to an across-the-board 2.5 percent raise for everyone except department heads.

Mayor Bob Newell said years of longevity raises, combined with lump-sum pay increases and changes in the city’s workforce have resulted in some salaries being out of line with the work people are doing.

“Now the problem is we have a lot of people in the appointed professional positions, like engineer, that are making an extremely low wage” compared to their peers in other parts of the state, he said.

That makes it difficult to attract candidates who can make more in the private sector, Newell said.

Meanwhile, workers in some entry level positions are being paid “more than the private sector pays,” city Finance Director Ashley Flowers said.

The classification changes and raises will help get some jobs closer to the average of those positions around the state, Flowers said, even if they’re still below it.

“I think it’s going to be a process,” she said.

Councilman John Kelly said he will probably vote for the proposal, but favored a lump-sum increase, as the city has often done in the past.

“I would’ve rather seen it just go across the board and benefit the people with the lower income,” he said.

Newell said he understands that reasoning, but feels the percentage increase is more appropriate because some positions with few professional requirements are making salaries close to jobs with more.

The mayor said reclassifications are also needed because more than 45 city jobs have been eliminated through attrition and reorganization since he took office in 2006.

“Some people have taken that extra work on and some haven’t,” he said.

Council President John Rockhold said his chief concerns were whether the city could afford the raises in the first place and afford them going forward.

“I think they’ve (the administration) clearly showed that there is funding to do it,” he said.

The raises are expected to cost $400,144, and Flowers said factors like the freezing of longevity pay and improvements in efficiency and tax collections will help sustain them going forward.

Rockhold said he supports the plan but would have liked to see some merit increases included as well.

“We’ve got some good, hard-working employees, and we’ve got a few that, shall we say, need some encouragement,” he said.

Newell said merit raises present some challenges, since they can be subjective and are not possible for civil service jobs like police and firefighters.

Also on Tuesday’s agenda is a resolution prohibiting pets from drinking out of water fountains in city parks.

“I got a complaint” about a woman letting her dog drink from a fountain in one of the parks, said Kelly, who is sponsoring the resolution with Councilmen Roger Brown and J.R. Carpenter.

The proposed resolution says that “improper use of some drinking fountains in the city parks has raised concern for the health and welfare of humans utilizing said drinking fountains.” Under it, animals can only be permitted to drink from fountains with specific signage designating them for use by animals.

Newell said there is one such fountain by the gazebo in City Park, which has a silver bowl from which animals can drink. That fountain has been broken for a while.

“We don’t mind putting some more of those bowls out,” the mayor said.