City discusses raises, promotions

By Nikki Blankenship -

After weeks of fighting for raises for nonunion City employees, Portsmouth City Council was informed Monday night that those raises may not come as quickly as possible.

As a previous meeting, Councilman Gene Meadows directed Council’s attention to the issue of raises for all non-union employees. Municipal Judges Steve Mowery and Russell Kegley have also addressed Council about the needs for court employees. Though union employees have had raises, non-union employees such as those employed with the courts have not had raises since 2009.

Meadows originally suggested that the City prepare legislation that would give non-union employees raises for the start of 2017 with back-pay to be paid by Dec. 15 and to give raises annually to all non-union employees as a rate equivalent to the highest raises given to union employees.

During Monday night’s meeting, City Auditor Trent Williams informed Council that though he would like to be able to have nonunion raises in place by that deadline, he says it will not be possible. As a result, Council had to vote to amend the ordinance in order to extend the deadline. Still, there was not guarantee that the process could be completed. Council made it clear that they wanted the legislation effective prior to Christmas in order to allow affect City employees additional holiday spending money.

Williams discussed bringing in additional help in order to finish up end of the year duties in addition to changes required as a result of recent pay increases and benefit changes. Williams stressed repeatedly that though he would like to be able to complete the process in order to have raises for employees and pension paid by Christmas, it is not feasible.

Council agreed to amend the legislation to allow Williams until Dec. 31 to make all necessary payroll changes. Still, Williams says that the task will be difficult to accomplish so quickly.

“I still have issues with that. I can’t predict the future. I’m telling you that I’m going to do everything I can to make it happen,” Williams stated.

He added that he is authorized under City Charter to bring in additional staffing if needed.

“We’re already working on it,” Williams informed Council. “That’s not the issue. The other things that we have to do already are three payrolls in December. That already makes it tough, as well as year ending procedure, budgetary procedure for this year and starting for next year. I also see a police contract. I don’t know what other contracts you’ll have coming up. All I can tell you is I’m going to do everything I can to get it done.”

Council did vote to wave the three readings rule in order to rush the process along.

Even after being amended, the ordinance allowed the auditor’s office one month to complete the transition.

During the meeting, City Manager Derek Allen also information Council that he had hired an administrative assistant as approved by Council. Allen announced that he hired formed Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA) intern Scott Leeth. Leeth had worked with the City on SOPA related projects in the past.

Furthermore, Allen announced that the Portsmouth Police Department has given several raises. Replacing former Police Captain Lynn Brewer will be Jason Hedrick. In order to fill the resulting vacancies, Conrad Nagel was promoted to the position of sergeant, Josh Justice was promoted to lieutenant and Christopher Swords was sworn in as a police officer.

Portsmouth City Council will meet again at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 11 in Council Chambers on the second floor of the Municipal Building on Second Street in Portsmouth.

By Nikki Blankenship

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.