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Half Measure: 50-cent incentive for Parkersburg police, firefighters a compromise

Parkersburg City Councilwoman Wendy Tuck, right, speaks during Tuesday’s council meeting as Councilman Bob Mercer listens. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — A Parkersburg City Council member who initially supported a $1-an-hour raise for long-serving police and firefighters said Wednesday he sponsored an ordinance for 50 cents so they wouldn’t get “nothing at all.”

“The dollar wasn’t going to go anywhere. That was a given,” Councilman Bob Mercer said the day after council approved the first reading of an ordinance enacting a 50-cents-an-hour increase for firefighters and police who have served 10, 15 and 20 years. “And so in order for them to get anything, I had to go with the flow.”

Fifty cents at each milestone was the original proposal of Mayor Tom Joyce in an effort to entice police officers to wait longer to retire and differentiate pay between firefighters who had served longer. But council’s Personnel Committee amended it to $1 on Aug. 9 before sending it to the full council. There, the measure stalled, with some council members calling it fiscally irresponsible to go with the higher amount.

No agreement was reached at a Finance Committee meeting later that month, but the original proposal was on Tuesday’s agenda and passed 8-1. Councilman J.R. Carpenter voted against it, saying the change in pay should be addressed during the upcoming budget process and include other city workers.

Mercer said council should consider increases for all employees in the next budget “’cause they’re just so important.”

Mercer raised some eyebrows as the lone no vote on a resolution renaming a portion of Beverly Street as Braxton Amos Drive in honor of the 2020 Parkersburg South graduate who won gold and bronze medals at the Junior World Championships wrestling competition in Russia. The street signs were changed Aug. 31 when Amos was in town, and Joyce presented the wrestler with his own sign.

“That young man was super stoked,” the mayor said.

Mercer declined on Wednesday to discuss his no vote.

Council approved the final reading of an ordinance spelling out the process by which officials can obtain an administrative search warrant for an inspection if the property owner refuses to allow them entry or cannot be located. It passed 7-2, with Councilwomen Jesse Cottrille and Wendy Tuck opposed.

Tuck said Wednesday she felt there was “already a pathway” to get such a warrant and was concerned because the city is in the midst of legal proceedings involving a downtown property owner refusing admittance to inspectors without a warrant.

“Let the courts work it through,” she said.

City Attorney Blaine Myers said Wednesday the lawsuit involves facts and circumstances from earlier in the year and will not be affected by the new ordinance.

“It’s intended to help streamline how we deal with similar situations,” he said.

In other business Tuesday:

* Council unanimously approved resolutions reappointing Seth Cressey to the Board of Zoning Appeals and authorizing Joyce to accept a $2,970 grant to promote the 2022 Taste of Parkersburg event.

* The final reading of an ordinance updating city code to reflect additional abilities provided to the Building Enforcement Agency by state law passed 9-0.

* The first reading of an ordinance vacating a portion of 17th Avenue east of South Hills Drive passed 9-0.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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