City of Buckhannon Public Works Director Jerry Arnold at Buckhannon City Council's Feb. 10 meeting, at which they approved pay raises for Street Department employees.

Council approves Street Department pay raises, grant application to aid in WAMSB prep

BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon City Council approved a set of pay raises for Street Department workers that they believe will pave the way for greater employee retention.

At the beginning of council’s special working session Wednesday, Feb. 10, Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner said public works director Jerry Arnold had presented a proposal for pay raises for his department during an executive session at a prior meeting.

“Jerry presented a proposal in executive session regarding Street Department compensation, and so we put it on the agenda for this meeting to make a decision,” Skinner explained.

The raises range from $1 to $3 per hour per employee, depending on skill set and longevity and will apply to about 10 employees.

“We are just trying to match compensation level with skill set to be a more competitive employer,” Skinner told My Buckhannon. The mayor said other employers had reached out to some Street Department employees offering greater compensation, and Arnold’s proposal came in an effort to retain employees.

At Wednesday’s meeting, city finance and administrative director Amberle Jenkins said the total annual increase for the raises would be about $57,000, with $34,300 in wages and the rest in benefits and overtime.

Skinner noted the raises would go into effect April 1, 2021, and councilman CJ Rylands made a motion to approve the raises, which was seconded by councilwoman Mary Albaugh before passing unanimously.

In other news, council approved the City of Buckhannon applying for a 2022 National Endowment for the Arts ‘grants for the arts’ grant that would aid the city in prepping for the 2023 World Association of Marching Show Bands, which is slated to take place in Buckhannon July 17-24, 2023.

City grant writer and information coordinator Callie Cronin Sams explained that the one-to-one matching grant – meaning the grant applicant must ‘match’ the amount it requests from the funding entity – could be for up to $150,000.

The match – or the city’s contribution – could be in-kind (i.e. labor, materials) or cash, and the grant period would begin Jan. 1, 2022, Sams said.

Rylands observed those in-kind contributions are normally services the city offers up to local events such as the West Virginia Strawberry Festival for free, and they include street sweeping, garbage pick-up, crowd control, etc.

Sams said applying for the grant would not pit the Colonial Theatre renovation project against WAMSB.

“They do not fund facility renovation, so this would not be in competition with the (Colonial Theatre) renovation,” she said. “It’s specifically for arts events such as WAMSB, and the grant period is for up to two years.”

Sams said the initial application was due Thursday, but the final long-form application would need to be submitted in the time frame of Feb. 16-23.

“I think this could be very helpful for the WAMSB event, and I think it’s a good opportunity, but we have to get right on it,” Sams said. “It’s right here on us.”

Sanders said the city needed to determine the amount it wanted to apply for.

“It can be an in-kind match, and there are going to be a lot of in-kind services that can qualify from the different departments of the city,” said Sanders, who spearheaded the city’s effort to apply to host the 2023 WAMSB Championships.

He also said the city would need some cash flow, and Jenkins, the city finance and administrative director, agreed.

“Personally, I think we ought to [apply for] and match about $100,000,” she said. “I think this will bring in [that], we’re already talking about one band with 500 people. I think this is going to be a true international event, and it’s going to bring quite a bit of money into this area.”

Sanders agreed, noting that a couple bands had already signed letters of commitment, including one 500-person band from Guatemala          

“It’s building momentum quickly,” he said. “We need to get a website up and do some public relations work. I would like to go for $100,000 and we match it with in-kind and cash.”

Councilman David Thomas made a motion to apply for a matching $100,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant, which was seconded by Albaugh, and passed unanimously.

Sanders noted the WAMSB Championships schedule had been updated, and the 2022 WAMSB Championship was now slated to take place in Bangkok, Thailand. Per tradition, city representatives will travel to Thailand to bring the WAMSB flag to Buckhannon for the 2023 event.

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