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Councilman to serve as interim mayor

WELLSBURG — Wellsburg Council filled the mayor’s seat but in doing so, created a new vacancy.

Council voted 6-1 at Tuesday’s meeting to appoint 1st Ward Councilman Danny Dudley to fill the seat, left vacant with the recent death of Sue Simonetti.

After Simonetti announced she wouldn’t seek another term, Dudley declared his candidacy for mayor in the city’s June 8 election.

Timothy A. Ferrari has since filed as a write-in candidate for the seat, with the winner of the election to assume the role on July 1.

Following its April 14 meeting, council advertised for a resident to serve as interim mayor until then.

Dudley and Fred Marino, a long-time local businessman and member of the city’s zoning board, applied.

Supporting Dudley’s appointment were 1st Ward Councilman Jack Kins, 2nd Ward Council members Paul T. Billiard and Mary Margaret Rosso, 3rd Ward Councilmen Randy Fletcher and Tom Gaudio and 4th Ward Councilwoman Della Serevicz.

Dudley abstained from voting, and 4th Ward Councilman Charlie Harris voted against his appointment.

Following the meeting, Harris noted Dudley must resign from his council seat representing the 1st Ward. He said he preferred that Dudley continue to serve in that capacity since as mayor, he may vote only to break ties.

Harris added he felt council shouldn’t reject Marino as “a member of the public who stepped up to fill the mayor’s seat as a gesture of good will.”

Several council members said they respected Marino but said Dudley would provide continuity that is greatly needed by the city at this time.

Following the vote, council agreed to accept applications for a 1st Ward resident to serve the remaining two years of Dudley’s term.

Residents with no felony convictions may apply for the seat by submitting a letter of interest to City Hall.

A deadline wasn’t set for the applications, but council is expected to consider the applicants at its next regular meeting on May 11.

Individuals appointed to elected city offices are required to run for them in the nearest election. But it wasn’t clear if there’s time to place the selected applicant on the ballots in June.

In other business, council voted 7-1 to accept a $1.7 million budget presented by City Manager Steve Maguschak.

Harris, who cast the dissenting vote, noted he has opposed the purchase of five new police cruisers and raises for city employees in recent months out of concern for the city’s financial status and because he felt the raises should be given incrementally.

Harris added he wasn’t given opportunity to review and question the budget.

Serevicz, who chairs council’s finance committee, was called for comment.

She noted the budget was in council’s packet for the April 14 meeting and added it and the city’s finances have been discussed at recent committee meetings.

Serevicz said the raises have helped the city to retain employees, noting several Wellsburg police officers left around the same time to join higher paying law enforcement agencies.

Prior to the meeting, City Manager Steve Maguschak said the budget reflects raises for all city employees approved by council in recent months as well as a 12 percent increase for their health care.

He said the increase amounts to about $3,000 per month and will be spread among the separate budgets for the water and sewer departments as well as the city’s general fund.

Maguschak was asked about $1.05 million in federal pandemic relief funds the city is expected to receive.

He said he expects in May to receive guidelines for use of the funds, which must be kept in an account separate from the city’s general fund.

On Tuesday, council also voted 7-1 to accept the city’s levy rates for the 2021 fiscal year, though a copy of the rates wasn’t available to them on Tuesday.

Council members were advised the omission was an oversight and would be rectified the following day but their adoption was needed to meet state requirements.

Some on council noted the rates are recommended by the county assessor’s office and their approval is more of a formality while this year’s figures weren’t expected to differ from last year’s.

Harris said council shouldn’t vote on something they haven’t seen.

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

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