Sistersville City Council voted 4-2 during a marathon meeting Monday night to hire the mayor's son to work at the city's sewer plan.
After discussion that included a few current city employees stating grievances to Jason Rice being hired in at a rumored $13 per hour, Councilmen Phil Konopacky and Richard Long voted against the hiring. The other four councilmembers in attendance-Mark Klages, Mitch Corley, Harold Dally, and Bonnie Hizer-voted for the hiring.
The motion did not include a rate of pay for Rice. His pay must be approved by council during a posted meeting. Klages said he had mentioned $13 to Rice in his interview, but told him he would have to check to be sure of the rate.
After the four-hour meeting, Klages said they would have to check to see what comparable pay scales were for Class II Wastewater Operators, a certification that Rice has held. Klages said Rice's license is currently dormant, but it can be instantly reinstated for 60 days-during which Rice must get 12 hours of continuing education units to certify for the next two years. The cost of those CEUs must be paid for by Rice.
Mayor Bill Rice said he wanted to be clear that he was not involved in the hiring for the vacant position. He had made the comment in the April council meeting that his son did not want to work for the city. However, in the interim he had decided he was not completely happy at his current job and applied for the position.
In response to a resident saying Jason Rice did not know the sewer plant, the mayor said he had worked at the plant for a time under the late David Bassett.
"I don't have a problem with Jason at all," said a sewer plant worker who had complained about a possible discrepancy in pay scale. He said his only problem was with what he considered to be rumors of unfair compensation. Mayor Rice said later that the worker questioning the pay was an Operator In Training and did not have the certifications his son held, or could easily.
Two employees questioning their pay scale asked for meetings with the personnel committee, which is made up of Hizer, Klages, and Corley.
In other matters, council unanimously approved requests from the Oil and Gas Festival and 2014 Marble Festival.
The 46th annual Oil and Gas Festival will be held Sept. 11-13. Barbara Vincent requested use of the city park Sept. 7-16, to allow time for set up and clean up. She also requested the city provide garbage service, police assistance, and allow the same parade route as always. City Commissioner Daniel Grimes said in the past they have run into issues with vendors messing with the electric boxes. Vincent said that has not happened during the Oil and Gas Festival, saying, "Our electrician is there the whole week, so he takes care of all of that."
Vincent also noted that for the second year the festival will offer free admission.
The 2014 Marble Festival will be held Sept. 26-28. Organizer Jim King said there will be no changes in the streets and accommodations necessary for the event. However, he did say that they have traditionally used overnight parking on Riverside Drive, which council recently banned. He asked that it be allowed for a period before, during, and after the festival to allow for the necessary vehicles.
Council unanimously approved a request from Sonya Hizer and Eric Vincent of Sistersville's First Baptist Church to use the park and its stage, big shelter, and shelter restrooms on Oct. 12 for a youth rally from 3-7 p.m. They were instructed to call the city building and get the event put in the park's book.
Councilman Klages, chairman of the finance committee, said the council will need to hold a special council meeting to approve this month's bills as they did not have them ready for approval that night.
"It will be coming shortly, but we don't know exactly when, yet," said Klages. He explained that CSSI has been working with them to make things work more smoothly.
"We had a lot of coding issues," said Mayor Rice. However, they said almost all of the coding issues have been taken care of now.
The city now begin using their financial system with a level of confidence they have not had, according to Klages. A consultant from CSSI has resolved several of the issues and fully trained the city so they can begin tracking everything and have "100 percent fidelity," according to Klages. "We can actually close out months now," he added.
However, Edward Conaway of CMT Maintenance and Repair Service of Bridgeport, W.Va., asked why he had not received payment for his services in June and July to the city. The licensed master electrician has been performing various services to the city.
Mayor Rice said his bills were not coded yet. However, Commissioner Grimes said they were turned in to be approved and were approved.
Part of the problem, said Klages, was the belief that if some of the city has money, bills can automatically be paid. He said that can't be done. It has to come from the appropriate fund.
"Agreed, we shouldn't approve to pay him if the money wasn't there," said Klages.
He further noted that in the past the city crew has done the work for which CMT billed. "When we talked about it before, it was supposed to reduce the cost to the city, not increase the cost to the city," said Klages.
Conaway said he wished he would have known beforehand the city was having financial troubles. "Some of those were pre-approved," he said.
Rice said they received a monthly preventative maintenance bill for $1,200 for the lift stations.
Conaway has also been called out for work on the ferry.
"The principle is we need to pay our bills. We agree with you 100 percent," said Klages.
In another matter, council did unanimously approve the Sistersville General Hospital bills of $416,302, accounts payable, and $295,584, payroll.