Pay raises to go before Weirton council

WEIRTON – The Weirton Finance Committee put its stamp of approval Thursday on ordinances establishing new pay scales for city police officers and members of the Weirton Municipal Employees Union, though it wasn’t unanimous.

Committee members voted 2-1 in favor of recommending the full council adopt the ordinances, which will be presented for consideration at Monday’s city council meeting.

The dissenting vote was cast by Ward 7 Councilman Terry Weigel, who renewed his concerns there are too many unknowns in the city’s budget picture for 2013-14 to risk a pay raise now. Weigel said without knowing how much the city will have to pay for employee health care coverage, he can’t in good conscience commit to a pay hike.

“I would prefer we held off on this until we see the other figures, the overall effect insurance will have on the budget,” he said.

Ward 5 Councilman George Gaughenbaugh, however, said they’d gone through a long and involved negotiating process, “knowing all that other stuff was going on.”

“This thing needs to get done as soon as possible,” said Gaugenbaugh, who voted to recommend passage of the ordinance.

City Manager Valerie Means told Weigel insurance “is a totally separate topic,” and the bargaining teams were fully aware that, depending on the final numbers, “We may have to change the makeup of the plan.”

The potential for a higher health insurance tab “is not a factor in what we do in negotiations,” she said.

Finance Chair and Ward 3 Councilman Fred Marsh, who voted to recommend passage, said employees are aware of what he called “pending issues.”

“Health care is a whole other issue outside our control,” he said, adding that he doesn’t “feel it’s fair to the negotiating team” to delay acting on the ordinance after spending so many months at the bargaining table in negotiations.

Weigel also voted against general fund budget revisions.

In other matters, the committee recommended council enter into a contract for construction of a sidewalk on South 11th St. and Heights Street through the Safe Routes to School grant program. The sidewalk is being funded solely through grant money, with no local match required.

No action was taken on three resolutions pertaining to a bond issue for the city’s roughly $6 million sewage upgrade because the committee hadn’t received the actual resolutions in time for Thursday’s meeting. City officials are awaiting necessary information from the city’s bonding agent, they said.

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