Follansbee Council may revisit budget

FOLLANSBEE – While City Council has approved a $2.6 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year, members plan to revisit it to consider such matters as raises for city employees.

Mayor David Velegol Jr. said he would like to see the employees receive a raise, adding their last pay hikes were in 2010.

A few council members said many residents have commented on the employees’ hard work but questioned whether it will be feasible to grant raises.

Approved at a special meeting held Wednesday, the 2013 fiscal budget is down from the $3.03 million budgeted for the current year. The city was required to submit the budget to the state Auditor’s Office by March 31, but it can be amended afterward.

City Manager John DeStefano confirmed the city has been affected by declining revenue from its local steel industries and the loss of one, Follansbee Steel, last year.

He said a bright spot is Wheeling-Nisshin Steel, whose development of a new corrosion-resistant coating is expected to boost its revenue.

Council made plans to meet with the city’s 35 full-time employees at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the City Building to discuss such issues as the city’s sick leave policy.

Currently sick days may be carried over from year to year, which has resulted in the city paying a few employees thousands of dollars for unused sick leave upon their departures, said 2nd Ward Councilman Tom DiBattista.

City Attorney Michael Gaudio suggested city officials also discuss how the city might be run more efficiently and cost-effectively.

DeStefano said some measures have been taken to cut costs in recent years. For example, fuel, uniforms and other materials have been collectively purchased for the city’s various departments and new vehicles haven’t been purchased for the street department in several years.

In other business:

Dave Secrist, chairman of the Brooke-Hancock American Cancer Society Relay for Life, asked council to proclaim May 1 through June 2 Relay for Life Days to promote this year’s Brooke-Hancock Relay for Life planned June 1-2 at the Follansbee Middle School football field.

Secrist said municipalities throughout the Northern Panhandle also are invited to promote the event by decorating areas with purple bows available for $10 each. City officials said about 50 bows purchased by the city last year are available to local businesses and groups to display them. For information, call (304) 527-1330.

Mary Kimberland, organizer of the Follansbee Summer Basketball League, asked for the restrooms at Mahan Playground to be reopened for the league’s use. DeStefano said the restrooms were vandalized and the sink, toilet and fixtures badly damaged. He said if they can’t be repaired affordably, he will arrange for portable restrooms.

Trendle Little and Monica Myers, members of Follansbee Church of the Nazarene, asked permission for teen members of the church to collect litter at local parks to fulfill a community service requirement at school.

Several city officials voiced support for the endeavor, though council can’t officially act on requests until its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the City Building.