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Wellsburg Council approves vacation time, pay for police

WELLSBURG — After some discussion, Wellsburg Council moved Tuesday to pay two city officers for vacation time and holidays they worked because two new officers’s training through the West Virginia State Police Academy has been delayed by the pandemic.

Following the meeting, City Police Cpl. Micah Knisley confirmed he and Capt. Paul Pownall had requested pay for multiple weeks of vacation and several holidays they have worked since November.

Knisley said he naturally was pleased by the move, which was supported by 1st Ward Councilman Jack Kins, 2nd Ward Council members Paul T. Billiard and Mary Rosso, 3rd Ward Councilman Tom Gaudio and 4th Ward Council members Charlie Harris and Della Serevicz.

Serevicz recommended the move after discussing the issue with the city’s finance committee.

Third Ward Councilman Randy Fletcher opposed it, saying he believed it discriminated against other city employees.

Some concerns had been expressed that it violated the city’s personnel policy.

Knisley said current practices involve city officers working on holidays to receive another paid day off while unused vacation time may not be carried over to the next year.

“We have a policy that if you don’t use it, you lose it,” he said.

But Serevicz said under current circumstances, the two officers should be paid for their unused holiday and vacation time, adding City Solicitor Ryan Weld should look into revising current policy.

City Police Chief Richard Ferguson told council earlier that two new officers weren’t able to complete state-required training in April as planned because the State Police Academy was closed because of the coronavirus.

Because the new officers must be accompanied by a certified officer, they had been spending much of their time assisting with investigations, Ferguson said.

Currently the officers are expected to report for training on Aug. 3.

Knisley said he and Pownall have been working additional shifts to ensure the city has coverage.

He said of council’s decision, “It’s a matter of the city doing the right thing for its employees, who are trying to take care of it.”

In other business, council:

¯ Authorized the Wellsburg Applefest Committee to use the town square and city streets for the fall event, provided it complies with current public health orders at that time.

The event is scheduled for Oct. 2-4.

¯ Approved a request from resident Michael Traubert to serve as a town crier on holidays at the town square. Traubert has expressed interest to the Brooke County Commission in reading the names of local woman accused of witchcraft in the 1700s at midnight on Halloween.

¯ Tabled for more information a proposal by Eric Fithyan of Chambers & James Funeral Homes to post decorative banners on the square. Fithyan, who was called for comment, said to spruce up the downtown business district, he would like to post seasonal banners on the town square and would invite other businesses, groups and individuals to do the same there and along Charles Street.

He said the banners in summer would bear a message of thanks to veterans and first responders, while spring and fall banners would bear messages related to community.

Each also would bear the names of the business or others sponsoring it, though individuals also could arrange for them to be sponsored in memory or honor of someone, Fithyan said.

He said the cost of sponsorship would be $225, while any damaged banners would be replaced for $50 by the same sponsor or others.

Fithyan said the banners could hang on the same brackets used for the snowflake decorations at Christmas.

¯ Billiard asked why city docks at the Eighth Street wharf haven’t been installed for the summer, adding many would use them for fishing.

Street Superintendent Mark Tingler said because the river is low, the area where the wharfs connect to a walkway is very shallow and the docks could be damaged. But he agreed to meet with Billiard to assess the situation.

¯ Billiard suggested holding a movie night at a city park, noting many summer events have been canceled because of the pandemic.

When he said the city could provide refreshments, concerns were raised about it violating public health recommendations, so he suggested attendees could bring their own.

Other council members were overall supportive, and plans were made to consult the health department about it.

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