Mayor questions hiring process

CHESTER — The introduction of Chester’s new assistant city clerk was met with some questions and concerns by Mayor Larry Forsythe.

City Clerk Marlene Fleming, last week, introduced Tara Ayers as the new assistant city clerk. Ayers succeeds Carol Farish, who announced her retirement during the summer and now serves in a part-time capacity.

According to Fleming, Ayers is a graduate of Robert Morris University, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in accounting. She also had attended Eastern Gateway Community College in Steubenville. Fleming said Ayers has plenty of accounting experience from previous employment that would be beneficial to the role.

A total of 15 applications were received, with four initially selected as candidates. That number, however, was narrowed to two after two of the individuals dropped out, leaving Ayers and one other candidate.

Farish, it was announced, will remain on the job for 10 hours a week in order to handle payroll for the city, and will train Ayers to handle payroll.

Forsythe asked if council was involved in the hiring of the assistant city clerk, to which Fleming stated no, pointing to a code that says the assistant clerk would work under Fleming, thus leaving the hiring decision to Fleming.

“I have mentioned several times where in each department, it’s part of her job description to fill vacancies within her office,” Solicitor April Raines said.

The mayor then pointed to West Virginia Code regarding duties of the city clerk and stated that “the city cannot supercede anything in their charter over the state.”

Later Forsythe questioned Fleming about how much it would cost to keep the staff, regarding payroll, and talked about the possibility of outsourcing the position, a thought with which Fleming disagreed.

“I think that we could probably save about $30,000, just on the assistant clerks, and we could send the time back down to the county, they always did it,” Forsythe said. “That would free up the cash for the city, and so that’s what I think on it.”

Fleming asked if council members had any issue with the hiring, but Raines stated it was not necessary to take a vote since a resolution stated each individual department was responsible for hiring its employees.

In other news from the city clerk, Tim Hooper, a representative with the West Virginia State Treasurer’s office, will be in council chambers 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Oct. 5 to verify unclaimed funds for Chester residents and surrounding towns.

In other business:

• Council approved receipts and bills for the general fund and the building fund for business handled Aug. 20 through Sept. 16.

General fund receipts totaled $91,061.70, while bills were $53,283.67. The building fund, meanwhile, collected revenues of $6,008, while incurring $151.96 in expenses. The bills were approved 4-0 with councilman Steve Shuman absent.

• True North LLP President Chuck Bailey spoke on behalf of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, discussing the Tri State Business Boot Camp scheduled 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Nov. 1 inside the Chester Municipal Building. Bailey said the two-hour workshop/luncheon would provide attendees throughout the area with an overview and understanding of basic business procedures, and also provide a chance to network with business owners and community leaders. The BDC anticipates anywhere between 30-50 in attendance. Council will vote at the next meeting to approve the use of the facility since it did not appear on Monday’s agenda.

• Council approved the use of the multi-purpose room/gym at the municipal building for the Pirates and Princess Adventure Gala scheduled noon to 3 p.m. Sept. 30, with proceeds benefiting the Children’s Food Backpack Program of Hancock County. The event will include a character dance party, a live show, carriage rides, a meet and greet session, a punk pirate and princess salon and prize drawings amongst the activities.

• Susan Hineman, coordinator for the upcoming Festival of Trees, provided an update on the three-day festival, scheduled Nov. 17-19 at Chester City Hall. She informed council admission will be $3 for adults and $1 for children, and reported prizes will be given throughout the weekend. Hineman also requested money should go into the historical fund, with it earmarked toward future festivals, Christmas projects and possibly new ornaments for downtown.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 2 at Chester City Hall.