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Mobile unit, employee vacations discussed

August 20, 2011
By WARREN SCOTT - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

FOLLANSBEE - A request for funds for a countywide mobile emergency command center and a new vacation policy for city employees were among issues discussed by City Council on Aug. 8.

Second Ward Councilman Tom DiBattista made a motion to grant a request from Bob Fowler, Brooke County emergency management director, for $2,000 for the mobile emergency command center. But he rescinded the motion after hearing City Attorney Michael Gaudio's legal opinion and some debate from other council members.

In June Fowler told council the vehicle could assist all Brooke County fire departments, including Weirton, and each would be asked to contribute to the cost.

He said the vehicle could provide phone service in the event the city's land line phone service was disrupted, response plans for fire departments to deal with emergencies at local industries and restrooms that may be used by firefighters responding to fires.

Fowler said Ohio County officials were interested in donating a stripped down retired emergency command vehicle that could be equipped to serve Brooke County.

But Gaudio advised the city may not use city funds for services it doesn't provide and may be found guilty of misappropriation of funds.

He said council may choose to contribute for the vehicle, but he will stand by his legal opinion.

Third Ward Councilwoman Kathy Santoro and Councilman at large Jim Andreozzi said they would like to grant the request but were concerned whether it would be a proper use of city funds.

In other business, council approved a change to the vacation policy for city employees at the request of City Manager John DeStefano.

The new policy states employees may take five vacation days individually if they choose but must take the others a week at a time. Also, no more than two employees may take vacation time at once, though exceptions may be made.

DeStefano said the change was made to address the recurrence of staff using their vacation time to take long weekends in the summer, when many are needed for projects or setup and cleanup for Follansbee Community Days.

He said there has been some abuse of sick time council will need to address in the future.

Also on Monday:

Mayor David Velegol Jr. and council recognized Brooke County Emergency Medical Service staff Tammy Fowler, Marion Coulter, Justin Bull, Andy Nickerson, Chris Haney, John Alig and John Schwertfeger, its director; Bob Fowler and Follansbee Patrolman Harry Myers for their role in aiding a man suffering a heart attack during this year's Follansbee Community Days.

Velegol said the group's efforts saved a life, but their work is appreciated by the city throughout the year.

DiBattista said while that incident was the most serious in the festival's 16 years, Brooke EMS staffers have been called upon at times to aid attendees stressed by the heat or suffering minor cuts.

At Velegol's request, council agreed to name former Mayor Tony Paesano mayor emeritus. Velegol said in the unpaid position, Paesano would represent the city at various community events and assist in acquiring grants and other assistance.

He said Paesano would not have a vote on council or have the authority to expend city funds.

Velegol noted Paesano had led the city for 10 years and said he wanted to continue his involvement with the city.

He said the Secretary of State's office had no issue with the move, which has been done in other cities.

Council observed a moment of silence for Rose Cox, a longtime public employee who died Aug. 5. Cox had been a clerk and office manager for the Hooverson Heights Public Service District for 21 years when it merged in 1996 with the city of Follansbee water department, where she continued to work until her retirement a few years ago.

Council approved the hiring of Debbie Gaston of Penn Street as a part-time crossing guard for schools in the city.

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