WEIRTON - Sanitation rates could be going up in the city.
Ward 4 Councilman George Ash said Monday he'll introduce legislation to increase rates unless the sanitation committee finds a private hauler willing to take on garbage collection services in the city.
The department has operated in the red for several years, requiring council to supplement its budget with money from its general fund.
"It's needed," he said after Monday's council meeting. "(The sanitation department) is supposed to be self-sustaining, we're not supposed to have to use general funds."
At a budget workshop two weeks ago city officials pointed out they'd had to channel $117,000 from the city's general fund into sanitation this fiscal year just to balance the department's budget. That's a situation they said could not continue, but they agreed to seek proposals from the private sector before considering a rate hike.
Ash made it clear he's ready for answers, not delays.
"We can't keep taking money from the general fund to pay for something" that should be self-sustaining, he said.
Council, meanwhile, passed on first reading an ordinance calling for pay raises for city police and unionized public works employees. The vote was unanimous, despite Ward 7 Councilman Terry Weigel's earlier concern that until they have final numbers on insurance costs for the new fiscal year, they can't really be sure the city will have the money to absorb the higher salaries.
"Throughout this process, I expressed my concern about (doing it) without knowing numbers for liability and health insurance," Weigel said prior to the vote. "I would prefer (acting) later ... but the numbers will not be available for at least another month, so I'm going to support the (raises). I appreciate the efforts of the bargaining team ... employees agreed to concessions, and in return the city is providing for pay raises."
Weigel said there's no question salaries have to be competitive with other communities and agencies. "The last time we gave the police test, only 12 people signed up," he said. "That occurred the same time Steubenville (was testing)."
Council also agreed to enter into contract for construction of a sidewalk from the old Red Rider Mart along South 11th Street to Heights Street. The project will be paid for with money from a Safe Routes to School grant, with no city funding required.
Ward 6 Councilman Dave Dalrymple said he'd been working on the project for "about three years."
"It's finally here in front of us tonight," he said. "A lot of people put a lot of hard work, time and effort into this. It's a really nice project for the city and my ward."
Dalrymple said the project gives kids who walk to school an alternative to walking in the street in a highly travelled area.
"I really think it's going to make it a lot safer," he said. "I've been watching the kids walk in the street and in the ditch for years."
In other business, council:
Passed first reading of an ordinance reducing the Human Rights Commission to seven members. It currently has 15, but attendance and vacancies have been a problem. City officials have said it's difficult to find people to fill vacancies.
Agreed by a 5-2 vote to a resolution amending residency requirements for city jobs to include several new phone exchanges, with Ash and Dalrymple casting the dissenting votes.
"I don't believe the charter allows us to do this, but that's my opinion," said Ash.
City Manager Valerie Means said the resolution "has to do with the location of the new exchanges" assigned to Weirton. "Your house has to be in one of these exchanges," she said, pointing out that employees still are barred from living in another incorporated area.
Approved first reading of installing signs restricting parking in front of Trinity Lutheran Church, 3432 West St., to handicapped vehicles on Sundays only, and painting a 40-foot yellow line on the north side of Powers Road beginning at the curb and ending at 129 Powers Road.
Council also signed off on third and final reading of an ordinance authorizing a bond issue of up to $6.3 million to finance sewage improvements, and also heard a first reading of resolutions regarding repayment of the funds as well as payment of invoices.
Utilities Director A.D. "Butch" Mastrantoni said the bond issue "is the largest single public works project we've done."
(Harris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)