Employee pay scale topic of Wintersville meeting

WINTERSVILLE — Village employees, especially their pay scale, dominated discussion at the Village Council meeting Tuesday.

Members of council voted unanimously to increase the pay of all village employees beginning with their first pay of this year. Mayor Bob Gale asked that council vote the ordnance in on an emergency basis so that the increase would be in effect for the first pay period.

Upon hearing that the Wintersville Police Department recently lost an officer, Councilman Randy Spence suggested the village also consider pay incentives to help retain officers in the village. Gale said officials would have to discuss the matter in a finance meeting or an executive session, but he did give some reasons why that might not be possible.

Gale admitted the village has issues retaining young officers but said that is a part of being a small village. He compared the village to a “AAA farm league” baseball team, saying that a lot of time young officers come out of the academies and join small forces to see if law enforcement is what they really want to do. If they are good at it, then they move on to larger departments.

According to Gale, there is not a lot that can be done about it because it comes down to a matter of money. He said the problem is not just an issue for the police department, but all areas of village employment.

“We can’t look at this as a business,” he said. “It’s not. The simple fact is what we pay is what we can afford. We can’t pay out more than we bring in.”

Councilman Randy Spence agreed.

“It’s not that they don’t deserve more, it’s that we can’t pay more,” he said.

Councilman Jason Mattern asked Police Chief Art Fowler to research and create a comparison of what the village pays and what other similar communities pay. That information is to be presented at the next finance meeting.

Fowler also updated council on the armed robbery that took place Jan. 2 at the Marathon Gas Station at 537 Main St. Fowler said that thanks to surveillance cameras at the business, traffic cameras and the excellent police work of his officers, it took less than 24 hours to apprehend the two suspects in Lincoln Park, Mich.

“My hat’s off to them,” he said of the investigators.

Fowler said officers still do not know what brought the male and female suspects to Wintersville, but the female already has waived extradition and should be back in Jefferson County in the next few weeks. The male has additional legal issues in Wayne County, Mich., that must be handled before he can be brought to Jefferson County to face charges. There is no specific date for his return.

Council also re-elected Robert Merriman as council president.