WEST ALEXANDRIA — Discussions remained heated at West Alexandria Village Council as they approved a three percent cost of living raise for full-time and permanent part-time employees without fully resolving a staffing issue in the EMS department.
The three percent increase was already budgeted, but the motion to approve it was split 3-3, with Holly Robbins, Jerry Carter, and Ian Campbell voting no.
“I don’t know how we can do that when we still have on the table a full time position,” said Robbins.
Mayor Carol Lunsford broke the tie with a vote in favor of the raise, however.
The increase took effect Feb. 28, while the volunteer EMS department is still awaiting a raise for what they get paid per call.
Council was unable to waive the three readings on the ordinance which would increase their pay because of another ordinance still on the table regarding the elimination of a full-time general service worker in the EMS department.
The EMS ordinance was written with the theory that the three readings on the other ordinance had already passed and the full-time position was already eliminated. But council split the vote on waiving the three readings for the job elimination and thus, were unable to pass it.
EMS can still get an increase in pay as long as their ordinance is passed by May, because volunteers are paid quarterly, according to officials.
The current situation did not sit well with the EMS department, nor Fire Chief Jeff Shafer, who addressed the board after the raise was approved.
“You give these people a raise and can’t even do anything for the volunteers. That’s like a slap in the face. These guys are so upset they are ready to walk,” said Shafer. “To me, this is a personal agenda and (village administrator Chris) Day has done nothing but try to disrupt our building by bringing everything to light like he did. (Addressing Day directly) I’m so disappointed in you and I hope you do not win the vote for the commissioner, because you don’t deserve it. You care about you, and only you, and nothing about this town or these people. I love this town. You don’t.”
Volunteer EMS workers make $15.75 per run.
Robbins made a motion to waive the three readings for the elimination of the position, but the vote was split, with Dawn Mitchell, Deb Smith, and Ray Waldeck voting “no.”
To waive three readings, it must pass by three-fourths majority. On the third reading however, the ordinance only needs a majority vote.
Solicitor Richard Faber noted, if the employee is to file an unemployment claim, there is a possibility the village would have to pay him that claim. There is also a possibility of litigation at hand as well.
Shafer told council the elimination is strictly budgetary and keeping that position at full time is hurting the service he and the emergency services are able to provide to the area.
Another issue brought up during the meeting was Robbins’ concern with language on the ballot. The new Fire/EMS levy does not specifically make reference to new construction of a fire and EMS building, nor does it have a term listed. The construction is the main intention for the money, however.
Robbins just wanted to make sure the village was being transparent with what the money is to be used for. She requested Faber look into creating a resolution for council to pass that would mark those dollars for that specific purpose.
Faber told her he would do some research on that for the next meeting.
Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Hickey also spoke to council in the meeting, addressing a few items which were brought up in a special meeting earlier in the month.
Hickey stated that Shafer was told to get the generator fixed, as operating without it was a safety violation and it needed to be fixed as quickly as possible. He said that the West Alexandria Fire Association purchased the original generator for the fire department and they will not be reimbursing the village for the new one.
He also presented council with a drafted form with an insurance agreement for newly purchased vehicles.
Hickey wanted to make clear that the department does nothing for economic gain and said they bought property for the sole purpose for – if the levy passes – building a new fire and EMS building. He also told council the land will be donated to the town. To date, the department has about $60,000 invested in the property.
He ended by telling council, “If you don’t want to insure or maintain the vehicles we purchase, let us know. We will get out of the business of owning vehicles.”
Lunsford agreed with Hickey on the insurance issue, and thanked the fire department.
“We’re going to treat you right,” she said.
In other business, the village passed an ordinance to apply for a community grant. The funds will be used to complete the final phase of the East Third Street project, and will complete the street all the way to Stotler Road. Council also approved salaries and positions for the chief, assistant chief, a captain, and two lieutenant positions.
West Alexandria Village Council meets on the third Monday of each month at the Water Treatment Plant. Meetings begin at 7 p.m.