Longevity pay debate continues

PARKERSBURG – An ordinance on longevity pay for employees will go to a fourth reading after reverting to its original form.

Parkersburg City Council voted 6-2 Tuesday evening to indefinitely suspend longevity pay, with council members John Kelly and Roger Brown voting against. Councilwoman Kim Coram was absent.

The longevity pay ordinance was amended last week during a second reading to repeal rather than suspend longevity pay at the behest of Kelly. The ordinance also had language added requiring the city’s Personnel Committee to meet annually to review employee job descriptions and pay.

Tuesday’s meeting began with Mayor Bob Newell asking council to reconsider the repeal, saying it was done incorrectly and harmed employees. He asked for the ordinance to be amended back to its original form or to have it sent to committee for discussion.

“Last week’s motion was unnecessary and confusing,” he said. “I’m not sure members knew exactly what they were voting for.”

Newell said many council members and administrators were told of the proposed change only minutes prior to the last meeting. He also said the move to repeal was not given the consideration or discussion it deserved.

“This was not fair to the employees or as importantly not fair to the citizens you serve,” Newell said. “The motion was an unnecessary blow to the morale of city employees. City council has repeatedly said to city employees that the suspension of longevity was a temporary measure necessary because of the recession. To eliminate it completely is being less than honest to the employees.”

At times the series of motions and votes seemed more like a volley at a tennis match.

When council reached the third reading of the ordinance, Kelly quickly asked for a vote to approve, but Councilman John Rockhold proposed an amendment returning the ordinance to its original form. That amendment passed 5-3, with Brown, Kelly and Councilman J.R. Carpenter voting against.

Kelly then asked for the ordinance to be sent to the city Finance Committee for review. That motion was defeated 3-5 by the same split.

Several council members questioned which version of the ordinance they were voting on, with City Attorney Joe Santer saying the ordinance had now reverted to its original form, suspending rather than repealing longevity pay. The ordinance was approved 6-2.

Santer said due to the dramatic change he believed the ordinance must go for yet another reading. Council meets again May 14.

In other business, council voted 8-0 to approve a proposed cooperation agreement between the city and Uptowner Lodging. The deal would provide incentives in the form of funding and tax breaks for the renovation of the old Uptowner Inn as an extended-stay hotel.

Council also voted 8-0 to name the stage area at Southwood Park after former Mayor Al Smith.