Council sends pay increase back to drawing board

EAST LIVERPOOL — Fred Rayl’s fellow East Liverpool councilmembers decided to honor his request and send legislation concerning pay hikes for the city’s non-union employees back to the Finance Committee as he requested.

Mayor Ryan Stovall and city Safety-Service Director Brian Allen, who was set to get a $2.89 per hour wage increase if the ordinance was approved, were notably absent Monday night during council’s regular meeting, a week after the Finance Committee “reluctantly” forwarded the measure for council as a whole for consideration.

The measure, which originally would give salary increases to the city’s fire and police chiefs who currently make less than the next in command, also was set to give Allen $26.09 per hour and his deputy $23.58 per hour with the increases paid out of the stormwater utility fund.

Rayl, who chairs the committee and serves as the city’s Second Ward councilman, said that he had contacted Law Director Charles Payne to ask him what he needed to do in order to have the legislation reconsidered in committee, and Payne directed him to ask for a council vote to refer it back for further review.

Payne was not in attendance for Monday’s regular meeting, but the Finance Committee is next scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. October 15. It is unknown if the ordinance will be on that meeting’s agenda for reconsideration.

Two dozen residents showed up for the meeting to get answers about a variety of topics, ranging from the stormwater fund to any social media policy that governs city officials.

Herman Potts of West Ninth Street kicked off the social media discussion by sharing his frustration with being one of the citizens who has been restricted from the city’s and city police department’s Facebook page. He has said that he sent several public records requests trying to learn information about who administers the page and who receives the information for the Ring camera affiliate program link that appears on those pages to no avail, alleging Allen is behind the lack of transparency.

“East Liverpool police are getting a bad rap for Allen’s actions,” he explained, calling the safety-service director’s online behavior “unprofessional” in nature.

Council President John Torma advised Potts that really isn’t a council issue, but it sounds like he might have to pursue legal action to get the documentation he so desires if his requests aren’t satisfied.

Several council members, like John Mercer, requested to see Potts’ proof, which he said that he could furnish.

Victoria Smith of Jennings Avenue inquired about the stormwater fund moneys and what that extra $7 was being used for, especially considering the pay hikes to the safety-service salaries, which are proposed to come out of the fund add up to $4.82 per hour.

In other action, At-Large Councilman Brian Kerr also presented information to council regarding Allen’s alleged failure to make recommended changes to signage in the cloverleaf area as proposed 10 months ago by the Ohio Department of Transportation. According to emails, Joseph P. Parisi II, a traffic maintenance engineer, had contacted Allen in January after receiving complaints about the number of accidents and close calls at the interchange of U.S. Route 30’s westbound on-ramp and the state Route 7 south exit ramp, where traffic doesn’t yield to traffic exiting the south exit ramp. The cost of the recommended signage would cost between $400 and $500; however, Allen told the ODOT representative that the city had no funding for the signage upgrades.

Councilmembers agreed that they would put together the necessary funds to pay for the upgrades, even if it has to come personally out their own pockets. They have promised to hold a Streets Committee meeting to discuss the matter further.