City council sends longevity pay to third reading

PARKERSBURG – An ordinance on longevity pay will go to a third reading after city officials approved a heavily amended version Tuesday evening.

City Council was set to approve a second and final reading of an ordinance to suspend employee longevity pay indefinitely. The ordinance included an option for council to bring the ordinance back for consideration at a later time.

Prior to the vote, Councilman John Kelly put forth an amendment repealing longevity pay rather than suspending it. Kelly said he has seen too many ordinances kept “in limbo” by past councils, and said this was a moment to act decisively.

“I really feel when we are going to do away with something we need to just get rid of it rather than suspend it,” he said.

Councilwoman Sharon Lynch, who heads the city’s finance committee, asked Kelly to add language to his amendment requiring the committee to annually review employee job descriptions and pay.

Lynch said in some years the finance committee did not meet at all, and she feared employee pay could be ignored without the automatic increases provided by longevity pay.

Kelly agreed to the change, calling for a repeal of longevity pay and requiring the finance committee to meet at least once a year to review employee job descriptions and pay.

Mayor Bob Newell asked council to reconsider the changes, saying longevity pay had been suspended due to economic conditions both nationally and locally.

“The intent was never to take it away permanently,” he said.

“It was to get us through the recession. I would suggest it stay suspended indefinitely. If you remove it, it will never be brought up again, is my fear.”

Both the amendment and amended ordinance passed 7-2, with council President Jim Reed and Vice President John Rockhold voting against both.

Because the ordinance was heavily modified on its final reading, it now goes to a third reading for approval. Council meets again April 16.