NOTE: This part one of a two-part series on the Covington Council meeting held Monday, Oct. 19. Part two will be in the Thursday edition of the Daily Call.
COVINGTON —During Covington Council on Monday night, an in-depth discussion developed around an ordinance repealing and replacing the salary ordinance for the village of Covington, which gives the employees of the village a 3 percent cost-of-living raise. That ordinance and the following ordinance concerning Village Administrator Mike Busse’s salary were approved by a vote of five to one. Council member Joyce Robertson voted against both ordinances.
The conversation began with a discussion surrounding employee vacation days, which were also established in the ordinance.
“I still think that we need, on heavy trash pickup, no vacations that week,” council member Doris Beeman said.
Beeman stated that she was referring to the week after Covington’s yard sale. Busse said later that was their second busiest heavy trash pickup week of the year while their largest heavy trash pickup is during the holidays between Christmas and New Year’s.
During the week after the village’s yard sale, after Christmas, and during disasters beyond the village’s control – such as a flood – heavy trash pickup is free, whereas during the rest of the year, residents have to pay extra to get their heavy trash picked up by the village.
Council member Bud Weer stated that he had a problem telling their employees when they could take their vacation.
“For one week out of 52?” Beeman said. “If you remember last year, everybody was calling and asking why isn’t their trash picked up?” Beeman explained that, at that time, they were shorthanded due to one employee being on sick leave and another on vacation.
“And you have to have two (employees) at the water plant, so that leaves not very many people to pick up heavy trash on top of doing their regular job,” Beeman said.
Council member Scott Tobias asked how many people the village has working in the water and street departments. Busse explained that they have six full-time workers and two part-time workers.
“But if we have one week out of the entire year that is blocked out for time off, and they know that at the beginning of each year, they can plan their vacations accordingly,” Council member Joyce Robertson said.
“I don’t think… holding off on one week out of 52 is going to hurt anything,” Council member Lois Newman said.
Weer claimed that the employees can just call in sick if they wanted to take a vacation during the week anyway. Weer also asked if there were any other opportunities to get more part-time people in on days where the village was shorthanded, including situations that arise outside of those heavy trash pickup weeks.
“It happens probably more often than what we realize,” Weer said.
“We’re just talking about one week,” Robertson said.
“I’m not in favor of legislating demand time,” Tobias said.
Busse stated later on that his recommendation would not be to black out a week entirely, but to restrict the number of people allowed to take a vacation during that time if this was an issue of concern for the council members. Busse asked to have something in writing from council for any restrictions they might put on vacation times.
“It’s not going to be a popular thing to tell them (the employees) that,” Busse said.
Tobias asked later for clarification on what the issue was, saying, “The issue is because we can’t staff people that week, the trash sits for an extra two days?”
Beeman stated that it was and that residents have been unhappy about their heavy trash not getting picked up at their regular time.
A heated exchange began between Tobias and Beeman over whether this was an issue worth discussing.
“This is ridiculous that we’re discussing this,” Tobias said. “Trash can sit there for two days until we get the staff to pick it up.”
“Sometimes we don’t have the staff to pick it up,” Beeman said.
“There’s nothing wrong with that stuff sitting there a couple extra days,” Tobias said. “You’re not going to be able to legislate to keep people on the job … This stuff sits until you have people to do the work. This isn’t a broken water main … We’re talking about something static sitting on the curb.”
“We’re also talking about the beautification of the village of Covington,” Newman said.
“For one week … That’s not the answer,” Tobias said.
Tobias also addressed the audience over their opinion on this issue. The attendees each indicated that they did not mind heavy trash sitting out on the curb for extra days.
“I’m not in favor of legislating mandatory time,” Tobias reiterated.
“Did you just hear what I said?” Beeman said. Beeman suggested that the council consider making a heavy trash pickup free every three or four months so the residents don’t wait so long to put out their large items.
“Do you have a problem with that?” Beeman asked.
“No, Doris, I don’t,” Tobias said. “But it’s ridiculous we’re sitting up here talking about this over a two-day period.”
Robertson stated that she wanted to table the ordinance. She brought up the 3 percent cost-of-living increase to their employees’ wages and salaries, wishing to table the ordinance in order to discuss the raise further. Tobias explained that they already budgeted the increase.
Another heated exchange began, this time between Robertson and Weer, over the employees’ compensation.
“We’ve already talked about this,” Weer said. “We told the employees we all said yes.”
“I think the 3 percent is extremely generous in light of everything else,” Robertson said.
“We already agreed to it,” Weer said, hitting his fist down on the desk in front of him. “I don’t know why you’re bringing it up again.”
Weer said it was her choice if she wanted to vote against the pay increase. However, he did not want to go back to the employees and tell them that they were not going to get the pay increase even though the council already told them that they would.
Robertson then responded to Weer, telling him to “grow a pair.” Robertson said this twice to Weer.
“That’s out of line and you know it,” Weer said.
The pay increases were then approved by a vote of five to one without establishing any stipulations to the workers’ vacation days besides what was already in the ordinance. A pay increase was all approved for the village administrator’s salary, increasing it to $73,940.
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitte @TheDailyCall