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Collector-treasurer’s pay, police restructuring before Wellsburg City Council

WELLSBURG — Wellsburg Council, on Tuesday, supported a higher salary for the city’s collector-treasurer and restructuring of the police department.

In December, Collector-Treasurer Andrea Morris requested a raise, noting her salary is lower than assistant department heads at City Hall.

But council members noted because Morris’ position is an elected one, any change to her salary can’t go into effect until after her present term, which ends on June 30. After that, whoever is elected to the office in the city’s June 8 election will receive that pay.

But council learned on Tuesday that Morris has chosen to resign from the position, effective Feb. 15, to accept a position as assistant to newly appointed Brooke County Magistrate Shannon Price.

“I have learned so much from being the city’s collector-treasurer and will do my best to help whoever you appoint to the position to make the transition as smooth as possible,” Morris said in her resignation letter.

She also offered to assist with the city’s community Halloween and New Year’s Eve parties, which she has organized since she entered the office.

The collector-treasurer is responsible for bookkeeping for the city’s revenue and payroll for city staff, submitting various financial data to the state auditor’s office and other duties.

Fourth Ward council members Della Serevicz and Charlie Harris said Morris’ resignation aside, pay for the position should be raised.

They and 1st Ward Councilmen Jack Kins and Danny Dudley, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Mary Margaret Rosso and 3rd Ward Councilman Tom Gaudio supported raising the salary from $27,000 to $33,841.60.

Third Ward Councilman Randy Fletcher opposed the move, saying the higher pay should reflect additional duties.

City Solicitor Ryan Weld was instructed to draw up an ordinance reflecting the change for council’s future consideration.

Following the meeting, Mayor Sue Simonetti said appointment of an interim collector-treasurer won’t occur until the city’s candidate filing period has ended on Jan. 30, when it’s known whether anyone has filed for the office.

In recent years city officials have considered whether the position should be filled through appointment or hiring. A previous collector-treasurer resigned to accept a non-elected position with the city.

Also on Tuesday, council approved a new rank structure for the police department at the request of Police Chief Richard Ferguson.

Under it, the department will include a captain, a lieutenant and up to five patrolmen. An ordinance establishing the ranks has been altered periodically over the years to enable officers to aspire to higher positions and higher pay.

The ordinance also was changed to allow Ferguson to hire an additional officer whenever one of the six is employed as a school resource officer by Brooke County Schools.

Ferguson said the city benefits from the school board paying the full salary of such an officer because he is available to the city when school isn’t in session.

Currently a city officer serves at Brooke Middle School, and Ferguson said there’s been talk of another serving at Brooke Primary South and the Alternative Learning Center, both within the city.

In the event the school board should end such contracts, an officer would be cut from the department.

In related business, council also approved the promotion of Officer Jonathan Griffin from a part-time position to a full-time one, filling a vacancy in the department.

Ferguson had asked to hire another officer and was told council couldn’t approve it because it wasn’t on the agenda.

But Weld said the hiring of officers is at the police chief’s discretion, provided they are within his budget.

Also on Tuesday, council approved the second reading for the sale of up to $5,972,458 to repay a $4.9 million loan from the state Water Development Authority taken for replacement of water lines and electrical and other upgrades to the water plant.

Council earlier approved rate increases to also support the project.

Simonetti asked for a moment of silence in acknowledgment of the recent deaths of long-time coach and community volunteer Paul “Bud” Billiard, who also is the father of 3rd Ward Councilman Paul T. Billiard; former mayor and councilman and long-time business owner Wayne Campbell; and Clay McAdoo, a former employee of the city’s water plant and an Army veteran.

Ferguson added to the losses Dr. Pat McCreary, who donated $100,000 to replace the clock tower atop City Hall in 2018. McCreary, who avoided public attention for her contribution, died on Saturday at the age of 91.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldsaronline.com.)

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