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Steubenville Council to vote on three-year contract for employees

STEUBENVILLE — Steubenville Council will vote next week on a new, three-year contract for the city’s AFSCME employees.

Council emerged from executive session Tuesday to sunshine an ordinance accepting the proposed contract with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2015, which holds the line on wages at least until July.

“There’s no pay increases for the first year,” City Manager Jim Mavromatis said.

“We asked them to hold off 180 days going into this year because COVID is destroying the economy, we’ve got businesses that may not bounce back. We have to see where we’re at.”

The AFSCME agreement clears the way for the city to begin negotiations with police and firefighters, he said.

“All of them have been asked to make the concession of no raise in the first year of their contract,” he said.

“That’s police and fire, too. This isn’t going away, our (coronavirus) numbers are climbing, I’m worried about business in this town.”

Mavromatis said the AFSCME membership can reopen the contract in July.

“This is the first of three contracts,” 5th Ward Councilman Willie Paul said.

“We have an open line with them, they can bring wages back up to us in July — they can ask us to reopen (the contract) to see if can give them the 2.2 percent wage increase we always give everybody.”

Both men said council had balked at boosting the wages of two employees in the finance department.

“We can’t do that because we’re not giving everybody a raise,” Paul said. “There’s no extra money for anybody … We said no raises, that was the holdup.”

Mavromatis said they’d like to have gone to a system wherein employees would “earn” their sick time, rather than award a certain number of sick days at the start of each year, “but we’ll do that in 2022.”

“In 2022, every pay period they’ll earn so many hours of sick time,” he said.

Council also sunshined an ordinance extending Mavromatis’ contract for two years, through March 28, 2023. It, too, will hold the line on wages, at least for the first year.

Paul said council members were appreciative of the work Mavromatis has done, calling the extension a “no-brainer.”

Also Tuesday, council also signed off on a change to the city’s Table of Organization that will allow Fire Chief Carlo Capaldi to bring three more firefighters on staff. The new hires will have EMS certifications, crucial to operation of the department’s new ambulance service.

“It provides us with a deeper rotation for the first ambulance and will help to cut overtime department wide,” Capaldi said. “These three positions will be funded through EMS revenue going forward. As revenue increases or we get a staffing grant, we still need three additional (hires) to get the second ambulance up-and-running on a regular basis. Staffing is the most important factor for the success of our fire-based ambulances.”

The department currently is running one ambulance, but to do it Capaldi had to temporarily reassign personnel from other areas. He said adding three more firefighter/EMT positions will reduce overtime costs and ease the burden on his personnel.

The fire department’s new ambulance service has been averaging nine to 10 calls a day, relying on other departments to handle three or four calls a day.

In other matters:

¯ Paul sunshined legislation authorizing city officials to have the book of codified ordinances updated, reflecting changes made during the past year.

¯ Third Ward Councilman Eric Timmons asked city officials to clarify the requirements for Steubenville’s new business incubator, a 12-month program designed to help new and existing small businesses. Paramount Pursuits, the Pennsylvania-based consultant working with the city, will help entrepreneurs build a foundation for their business, create business and marketing plans, provide digital marketing assistance, understand financials and identify and obtain funding and networking.

During council’s Jan. 12 meeting, council was told there were income and residency restrictions for participants.

“Do you have to live in Steubenville and do business in Steubenville?” Timmons asked. “What if they live in Wintersville and own property in Steubemville?”

Timmons also said he would appreciate quarterly updates from Paramount.

¯ First Ward Councilwoman Asantewa Anyabwile sunshined a resolution proclaiming February as Black History month, and asked Mavromatis to look into scheduling COVID testing at a downtown location.

“I understand about the vaccine coming, but testing is still important,” she said. “It would help people downtown to be able to get to a testing site.”

Mavromatis said he’ll see what can be arranged, pointing out the “biggest issue is going to be manpower. They’re trying to get the vaccines out as much as possible.”

¯ First readings were heard of ordinances authorizing Mavromatis and Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi to advertise for bids for the 2021 CDBG and hot mix street improvement program as well as installation of adult fitness equipment at North End and Murphy parks; authorizing Mavromatis to seek bids for the 2121 city street pavement marking project; and giving Mavromatis the authority to execute Phase 6 of the city street sign replacement project.

(Harris can be contacted at lharris@heraldstaroline.com)

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