Parkersburg City Council approves raises for police, firefighters
PARKERSBURG — A little over a month after the measure was introduced, Parkersburg City Council approved the original proposal for an extra 50 cents an hour to police officers and firefighters who have served 10, 15 and 20 years.
The first reading of the ordinance passed on an 8-1 vote Tuesday, with Councilman J.R. Carpenter opposed.
The measure to help retain long-serving police officers and give veteran firefighters a higher rate of pay was referred to council from the Personnel Committee in August. Mayor Tom Joyce had pitched the 50-cent raise for each of the milestone years, but the committee amended it to $1.
Some council members balked at the higher amount without knowing the potential financial impact. Council voted 5-4 to table the ordinance. Discussion at an Aug. 20 Finance Committee meeting yielded no agreement and no motions passed.
The original proposal returned Tuesday, sponsored by Councilmen Bob Mercer and Austin Richards and Councilwoman Sharon Kuhl.
Carpenter reiterated his previous argument that pay adjustments should be made during the annual budget process, rather than mid-year.
“I agree … if it wasn’t for the fact that we have police officers ready to retire and who can retire before the budget” process in the spring, Kuhl said.
Carpenter said no one is forcing the officers to retire as soon as they are eligible, but it’s good to have new employees.
“The longer we have older employees, we don’t have entry-level people coming in,” he said.
Kuhl said recruiting has been a problem, confirming with Police Chief Joe Martin the department is nine officers short of its budgeted compliment of 74. Joyce said 11 officers are eligible to retire by the end of 2022 and he’s hoping the increase may convince some of them to work longer and increase their pensions.
“I don’t know if this will keep one or seven or nine or 11 or zero,” he said. “Quite frankly, you owe it to the younger guys to have some older guys around to show them the ropes.”
Carpenter asked about the financial impact. Joyce and Finance Director Eric Jiles said a conservative estimate is it would add $8 million to the police pension obligations.
Council also voted 6-3 to solicit bidders to purchase the former Point Park Marketplace at 113 Ann St. Councilwoman Wendy Tuck made a motion to send the resolution to the Finance Committee to consider more questions. It failed with only her, Carpenter and Councilwoman Jesse Cottrille — the same three who voted against the overall resolution — in support.
Carpenter said the city should not relinquish control of property at the entrance to its main tourist attraction, Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park, without exhausting “any options for the use of this building that helps the community.”
Development Director Ryan Barber said the resolution establishes a committee, that would include two members of council, to grade proposals for the property, with the proposed use and the ability of the bidder to execute it being part of the criteria. City Attorney Blaine Myers noted council would have final approval of any sale.
In other business, council voted 9-0 to approve a budget revision allocating $50,000 for a dog park in City Park.=