Struthers revises pay ordinance for department heads

By Jeanne Starmack

Most council members agreed the ordinance could keep qualified employees from staying in the city.

STRUTHERS — City department heads who have moved up through the ranks will now make more money their first year on the job.

City council voted 5-1 to amend a pay ordinance, passed in 2006, that had required all department heads to collect 80 percent of their salaries the first year, 90 percent the second year and 100 percent the third.

The amendment now exempts promoted city employees from that step-raise language. Departments heads hired from outside city ranks still will be subject to the step increases.

Dan Yemma, the councilman who voted against the amendment at Wednesday’s meeting, said he believes the original ordinance was meant to control the cost of salaries.

“They’re the largest portion of our budget,” he said.

He said nothing has changed since the original ordinance passed.

“Salaries are still the biggest part of the budget. They will spiral if we don’t attempt to control them,” he said.

But other council members said the ordinance was costing the city in terms of not being able to keep qualified, experienced people to eventually become department heads.

“With raises that people get, it’s closer to what the managers make,” said Councilman Robert Burnside. “They could actually be taking a pay cut,” he said.

Mayor Terry Stocker previously told the Vindicator he decided to recommend the amendment to council because he found out the assistant waste-treatment plant manager was planning to take another job rather than stay in Struthers for a promotion once the plant manager retires in January. The reason, he said, was the pay ordinance.

The assistant manager, Bob Gentile, has 13 years’ experience running Struthers’ plant, and he has a Class IV license in waste treatment — a qualification that’s hard to come by, said Stocker.

Though Stocker voted for the pay ordinance in 2006, he said he believed it was time to rethink it — especially because the fire chief and the police chief will be retiring in 14 months.

Auditor Tina Morell said that the way the ordinance was written, a police chief promoted from captain would have taken a cut in pay, and a fire chief who was promoted from captain would end up with a raise of about $110.

She said employees needed more of an incentive to go for promotions.

She also said the city could have trouble attracting a waste-plant manager with a Class IV license at a salary she estimated was at least $20,000 less than that person could make elsewhere.

She said the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency requires someone with that license at the Struthers plant.

“You get a small window of time to replace him before a $50,000-a-day fine,” she said.

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