Council weighs salary increases

Board votes to up wages for employees

LEWISTOWN — Heated discussions were held Monday night at the Lewistown Borough Council meeting over the potential wage increases for the salaried employees of the borough.

Meeting minutes of the Finance Committee, chaired by Russ Rager, showed a 3 percent increase for employees and an 8 percent increase for the borough manager and assistant borough manager.

Vice President of Council Larry Searer did not agree with the different percentages.

“I understand we consistently increase the salaries based on the cost of living, that’s not the issue,” Searer said. “The issue for me is why the difference? What makes them deserve it more?”

Rager said they felt as if Borough Manager Scott Welham and Assistant Borough Manager Dianna Walter were doing an excellent job and deserved the increased wages.

“So what you’re saying is they are doing a better job than everyone else?” Searer asked. “It just isn’t fair.”

When the current borough manager was hired, he opted for a $65,000 yearly salary, nearly $10,000 less than what the previous manager was being paid. He also opted to not use the borough insurance and is not being stipend for that as is the case for other employees, multiple council members said.

The increase would put him at around $70,000, still less than what the previous manager was receiving.

Searer did not question that Welham and Walter are doing a good job, he simply questioned why they would be compensated more than others.

“He [Welham] set his contract when he was hired, it was his choice,” Searer said. “Now he wants to be compensated more for doing the job he was hired for.”

Searer made a motion, which was seconded by Council member Matt Moore, to suggest the 3 percent increase across the board. The motion passed four to three.

Searer, Moore, council members Bill Wilson and Jim Felmlee voted in favor of the motion. Rager, along with Council President Frank Berrier and Council member Larry Eddinger voted against the motion.

The issue was brought up again following an executive session when Welham asked the council members a question.

“What do you consider compensation?” he asked. “Do you just look at salary or do you consider everything?”

He asked his question to help the borough understand the increase.

“Eight employees in the borough currently make more than myself,” he said. “I did not take the insurance but bargained for the five weeks vacation instead.”

Welham brought up that a recent hire, who makes more than him, receives borough insurance and gets the five weeks vacation.

“I love my job, but there is more than 40 hours that go into it,” he said.

Searer asked Welham if he knew what the job entailed before he was hired. Welham replied that he did, but it all came back to what the council considered in the compensation.

“The other person manages 14 people and a budget of $1 million,” he said. “I manage hundreds and a budget of around $9 million. How is that fair?”

Welham handed members of council a paper, which listed the eight employees who make more than him.

Moore then made a motion to rescind the previously voted motion of suggesting the 3 percent increase across the board.

“Had I known this then, I would’ve voted differently,” Moore said.

Rager seconded the motion, which was passed four to three. Eddinger, Moore, Rager and Berrier voted to rescind the motion, while Searer, Wilson and Felmlee voted to keep the previous motion.

After the vote, Searer walked out of the meeting. The meeting was adjourned shortly after.

The Lewistown Borough Council meets at 5:30 p.m. the second Monday of each month at the borough hall.