WELLSVILLE — One of the last wishes of the village’s late mayor, Nancy Murray, may come to fruition next week.
Wellsville’s Finance Committee met Monday before a packed house and spent a significant amount of its recently received American Rescue Plan (ARP) act funds on bonuses for its underpaid but not under appreciated employees.
Last month, the village received word that it could expect $346,307 and recently received its first installment of $173,153.50.
As municipalities and townships recently learned there are limitations on how those moneys can be spent, including any public health expenditures; investment in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure; and pretty much anything else police- or fire-related. However, premium pay, or bonuses, for essential workers is also a permissible use of the funds.
Bonuses for the employees is what Murray had envisioned.
After a few members initially were a little skeptical, they seemed all on board during the finance committee meeting, where members agreed to ask Councilman Keith Thorn, who chairs the Ordinances committee, to meet with Solicitor John Gamble to draft legislation, authorizing the action to be considered during Aug. 3’s regular council meeting.
There was some debate from the crowd, which overwhelmingly was made up of employees interested in the discussion.
According to Fiscal Officer Hoi Wah, Murray wanted each employee working full-time, 30 hours plus under federal guidelines, to receive a $3,000 bonus or part-time, between 100 hours per year or under 29 hours a week, to receive a $1,500 bonus for their service. She estimated that the cost would be around $92,000 to the village out of their initial ARP funds.
Karen Dash, along with her council colleagues, expressed her belief that it was important that Murray’s promise be kept, citing that it would be a really good morale booster: “We aren’t debating the need; we are debating the hours to distribute it fairly.”
Randy Allmon agreed that he saw over the last three weeks that he had served as mayor how deserving the employees were for the bonuses. “They have been underpaid for so long,” he added.
Elected officials, the magistrate and solicitor would not qualify for the bonuses. Ohio Revised Code would prohibit elected officials awarding themselves in-term pay increases, while the others don’t meet the minimum hour yearly requirement.
The committee also agreed to transfer $72,000 for a truck back to the general fund out of the ARP money.
If the village would fail to obligate by Dec. 31, 2024 or spend the funds by Dec. 31, 2026, it would have to be returned. Council members didn’t vocalize how they would spend the other installment.
Council members will vote on the matter at 6 p.m. Tuesday at their next meeting in village hall.