Wellston City Council members voted unanimously in favor of approving a memorandum of understanding between the City and the Teamsters Local Union 637 (on behalf of the Wellston Police Department [WPD]) during a recent meeting.

Mayor Charlie Hudson explained during the Thursday night, Oct. 15 meeting that, as the WPD’s contract is written, employees were eligible for hazard pay from the time Gov. Mike DeWine declared a State of Emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic back in mid-March. That declaration has not since been lifted, and Mayor Hudson said the legislation settles the matter outright, with each WPD bargaining unit member receiving $6,000 apiece.

“The meter was running,” he told council. “It was up to about $270,000 or so. This relieves us from any other liability going forward. I appreciate their cooperation in this matter and we think this is a fair settlement.”

Fortunately, the City recently received its third, final and largest distribution of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Funding, and Mayor Hudson explained the rules dictating how that money can be spent have been relaxed. As a result, the WPD hazard pay settlement will be funded entirely with CARES Act money, since the federal dollars are now able to be used to offset labor costs for first responders. Further, the deadline for when the money has to be encumbered has been extended to Nov. 20.   

Though this is a “stand-alone case,” Mayor Hudson said it could come up again and that the topic of pandemics would be addressed when contracts are renegotiated in roughly a year and-a-half.

“Nobody contemplated a pandemic when we negotiated contracts, but we will next time,” he said.

WFD Receives Grant For Air Packs

In other news from Thursday’s meeting, Wellston Fire Department (WFD) Chief Ryan Pelletier announced his department was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), money that will be put toward the replacement of 22 air packs for Wellston’s firefighters.

Back in June, Chief Pelletier told council that his department’s aging air packs, which are self-contained breathing apparatus, were beginning to fail and were soon going to need to be replaced. The cost of replacing 22 air packs, which Chief Pelletier said are at the top of the list of a firefighter’s most important PPE items, is approximately $189,000. Thursday night, he said the remaining $89,000 would be financed at 2.14 percent interest. Chief Pelletier gave thanks to Mayor Hudson and City Auditor Gary Crabtree for their work in securing the grant.

With regard to code enforcement and zoning updates, Pelletier said mowing at non-compliant properties was recently finished and that, for the year, the construction of new homes was up in Wellston from previous years.

During Mayor Hudson’s report to council, he said he has received a great deal of positive feedback and very few complaints regarding the “new city flower” – the big, blue trash cans. He said less than roughly five percent of residents got the wrong cans, wanted a different can or wanted an additional can.

“I think this will go a long way in cleaning up the town and it allows us to measure the amount of garbage we have and get paid for what we take to the dump,” Mayor Hudson said.

He added that Jackson Mayor Randy Evans has expressed interest in implementing this program as well.

Finally, Mayor Hudson told council that by the next meeting on Nov. 5, he would have an updated ordinance defining what constitutes a mobile home versus a modular home. This, he said, is one example of his administration “tightening up” some old items of legislation, an effort made much easier by summer intern Grant Plummer who digitally catalogued Wellston’s ordinances and resolutions back to roughly 1974.