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Furloughed employees still not back in Chester

CHESTER, W.Va. — The frustration on Mayor Ken Morris’ face was evident as he stepped down to leave chambers.

More than an hour after council started its regular meeting Monday, their furloughed employees in the clerk’s office and street department were still not back.

Back in May when the coronavirus pandemic was just taking hold, council voted not only to lay off those employees but also bypass their pay checks as a cost-saving measure.

Morris had hoped that the employees might be back this week; however, it was not to be yet.

Following some routine household issues like accepting receipts and paying bills, council and Morris entered executive session to discuss personnel for around 45 minutes before returning.

Mayor Morris urged the action. “I am not sure what other options we have. I don’t get it. We cannot leave it to sit until December (when the snow starts falling).”

The first attempted vote died for a lack of a second, leaving Morris deciding to not take any action until the next meeting anyway as it wasn’t on Monday’s regular meeting agenda.

Six employees were laid off more than four months ago and council had suspended their own collection of pay checks.

In other action, council unanimously accepted receipts totaling $123,457 for the general fund and $7,615 for the building fund and paid bills totaling $93,688.76 as well as heard from Ann Eckleberry regarding the police pension fund’s annual report, which she said was faring relatively well considering the pandemic.

Eckleberry did note that the fund lost only $28,000 due to having to refund some employees who left as well as the pandemic affecting investments; however, it is performing well under the oversight of the West Virginia investments.

The building report detailed how city officials are busy sanitizing everything and have rented out two more rooms in the upstairs of the municipal building. Parties, with limits of 25 are still utilizing the premises.

Fire Chief John Hissom reminded council members that the Fall Bash was postponed this year, losing the fire departments hundreds of thousands of dollars, while Councilman John Woodruff said that the seal coat in the Overlook near First Street was not paid for out of city funds but instead by a Gordon Pugh Foundation grant for the project.

Neither Solicitor Michael Adams nor Assistant Clerk Reagan Headley were in attendance Monday night, and there was no discussion regarding litigation.

Council next will meet at 5 p.m. Oct. 5 in council chambers in the municipal building.

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