Council suspends longevity pay

PARKERSBURG – Following a lively debate, a divided Parkersburg City Council approved the final reading of an ordinance suspending longevity pay for employees on Tuesday.

Councilmembers split 6-3 on the vote, with the majority approving a plan to indefinitely suspend planned yearly pay increases for employees. The ordinance would allow council to bring longevity pay back to the table at a later time.

Longevity pay had been suspended on an annual basis by council in recent years due to economic issues. Under longevity pay, employees received annual 30 cent pay increases, but the program caused issues when positions were vacated and base pay was under market price for new employees.

Councilman John Kelly, who unsuccessfully tried to have the ordinance repealed last month, renewed arguments against the suspension Tuesday, asking for the ordinance to instead be sent to the city’s Personnel Committee for review.

“Suspending it just postpones an action we need to take,” he said. “We are passing our problem on to future councils and administrations.”

Mayor Bob Newell argued against the action, saying the Personnel Committee already is obligated to review employee pay, including longevity, prior to Nov. 30 each year. By suspending longevity now, it would remain an option for council in the future and could be revised if needed.

City attorney Joe Santer urged council to act definitively Tuesday evening, saying longevity pay would go back into effect July 1 if no action was taken.

“You need to repeal or suspend it tonight, or on July 1 something is going to happen you don’t want,” Santer said.

Kelly’s motion to send the ordinance to committee was defeated 3-6, with Kelly, Roger Brown and J.R. Carpenter voting in favor of the motion. Those three then voted against suspending longevity pay, which passed by a 6-3 vote.

Carpenter also was the lone yes vote on an amended biking ordinance which would have removed Juliana Street as a designated bike path in the city. The biking ordinance failed 1-8.

Councilwoman Kim Coram asked for the ordinance to be voted against, citing a new biking path which had been proposed by the city’s Bike Advisory Board which bypassed Juliana in favor of a “safer” downtown route.

Newell, who originally had proposed Juliana Street as part of the downtown bike path, said he had no issue with the newly proposed route, but urged council to consider a revised ordinance which would allow biking on sidewalks in certain areas, something he said is needed for portions of the city bike path.

A resolution to give $15,000 to the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport was tabled by council until Sept. 10. Airport officials had requested the money to get through a predicted gap in funding this summer, but officials later said they did not believe the extra money would be needed.

Newell asked for the resolution to be tabled rather than thrown out in order to give the airport time to see whether its finances could be sorted out. The airport’s new budget year begins in October.