WINTERSVILLE — Wintersville Police Chief Art Fowler has asked the city’s finance committee to consider a new compensation structure for members of his department, which he hopes will help attract and retain staff.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Fowler proposed that all staff, including nine officers and two clerks, be given a $1.50 an hour pay increase.
He also proposed increasing the starting hourly wage for new officers from $12.60 to $15 and the hourly wage after the one-year probation period from $13.50 to $15.72.
He proposed reducing the officers’ regular working hours from the current 85.5 hours for a two-week period to 80 hours for the same period, with officers only being paid for overtime after they have worked 86 hours.
Fowler said the move would comply with state wage laws for first responders and was supported by village officers, who welcomed higher pay for their regular hours.
He said the raises can be given within his department’s current budget as an old officer has retired and will be replaced by a new officer at starting pay.
“It’s basically a redistribution of funds that have already been given to me,” Fowler said.
The meeting came after Fowler told the council that the starting pay for the village officers is the lowest in Jefferson, Harrison and Tuscarawas counties.
Councilor Jason Mattern asked Fowler about the number of officers in other towns and cities in the county and the hours they work and was told that none have as many as Wintersville and that there may not be other departments that have 24 hour coverage. offer.
“I’m very grateful for that full service,” said Mattern, who later added, “You are unique and should be commended for that.”
Councilor Gael Damron agreed, saying that the level of police protection is one of the reasons she likes living in Wintersville.
Fowler had previously questioned the planned hiring of three city workers at starting wages higher than the police officers.
Village manager Walter Ziemba said two of the three will be hired for the water and sewage departments and paid from their funds, which are segregated from the general fund by state regulations.
Mattern noted that the village’s general fund is about $300,000, “which isn’t much to play with.”
He and Councilman Bob Merriman, who chairs the finance committee, agreed that the starting salary for officers and the salary for clerks of the department, which is lower than that, should be increased.
But they expressed concern about a long-term effect on the village’s finances.
“The goal is to protect our citizens, but we have to be fiscally responsible,” Mattern said.
He asked if the federal US bailout funds coming to the village, in two payouts of about $192,000 each, could be used for law enforcement.
Told it should be used for infrastructure, he said that was disappointing.
Mattern said that in the past 11 years, the council has approved pay increases of 2 to 5 percent for all staff and pay increases for four senior officers to reflect their longevity.
He added that the village also pays 100 percent of its employees’ health insurance premiums and 70 percent of their deductible.
But Mattern added that he and others will seriously consider Fowler’s proposal and thanked the police chief and two village officers who attended the meeting for their input.
He also noted that the request will be voted on by everyone on the council.
The next regular Council meeting is at 7:00 PM on November 4 in the Municipal Building.
(Scott can be reached at [email protected])
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