Utility workers ask City for more pay; Council also approves financing for Ujima CDC project

Utility workers ask City for more pay; Council also approves financing for Ujima CDC project
April 21
00:00 2016



City utility employees asked for higher pay and funds were approved for Ujima CDC’s first project in the Monday, April 18 meeting of the City Council.

Many utility workers spoke, and dozens filled the seats and lined the walls of the standing-room-only meeting.

Bob McMannon, a  21-year utility employee who is a senior plant operator at Elledge Wastewater Treatment Plant,  told the council that the City is losing certified operators to other municipalities in the state and as far away as California. He said in the last seven months, the plant has had to replace 25 percent of its operators.

“Do we want to give away our trained operators to other municipalities?” he said. “I’ve heard it said repeatedly with operators leaving, ‘I can’t afford to stay with Winston-Salem’.”

Edgar Henderson, who works in utilities construction as a senior crew coordinator, said the pay deficit with other North Carolina municipalities runs between 15 and 25 percent depending on the position. He said it can take up to four years to earn certification.

“By the time the employee earns these certifications, the City has invested approximately $140,000 in him or her, only  to have them accept a position at a neighboring utility for a significant pay increase,” said Henderson.

Sworn police officers and fire fighters faced a very similar situation, where many were leaving for other municipalities that pay more after being trained. To improve retention, last year the City Council approved a plan to increase the pay for police officers and firefighters.

The mayor and City Council members promised action for the utility workers.

“I can assure you we will take your comments very seriously and will begin to address them with the budget this year,” said Mayor Allen Joines.

The City Council also voted unanimously to provide$2.5 million in grants and loans for Ujima CDC’s Emmanuel Retirement Village, located on Barbara Jane Avenue off Old Greensboro Road. The CDC began in 2005, after Emanuel Baptist Pastor John Mendez had the idea of putting a retirement community on property the church owned at that location.

City Council Member Robert Clark, chair of the finance committee, was among those who said he was impressed with the CDC, commending its preparation for the project, and acknowledging how difficult development is in “certain parts of town.”

Council Member DD Adams praised the CDC for its diligence on the project.

“It places a much needed service of housing in an East Winston neighborhood,” said Adams.

The City’s financing is comprised of a $500,000 grant, a $1 million no-interest forgivable loan and a $1 million loan at 2 percent interest. The $5.5 million project will get the rest of its capital from a private lender, whose financing was contingent on getting city funding.

Emmanuel Retirement Village will have 28 single bedroom units in a two story apartment building, duplexes with 22 two- bedroom units, and a community center. The CDC hopes to start construction this year and open the complex in early 2018.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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