Shamokin employees will continue benefit of discounted cell phone plans
SHAMOKIN - City council will stick with its current cell phone offer to employees.
Eight employees voluntarily enrolled in the city's plan will continue to receive a 23 percent discount and other perks, including on new equipment purchases, as part of an offer unanimously agreed on by council last year.
A new caveat is that they must enroll for automatic monthly payroll deductions.
A motion made by Councilman R. Craig Rhoades, who is the lone public official enrolled in the plan, and seconded by Councilman William Strausser passed 4-1 Monday to continue the offer to employees. It came with pledges from both Strausser and Mayor George Rozinskie that if there were "any problems" with payments moving forward, the offer would be rescinded.
Councilman William Milbrand made a motion to terminate the agreement. His motion died when no one seconded it. After the meeting, Milbrand said he didn't believe the city should be responsible to collect employees' money for a cell phone bill.
Under the current arrangement, employees voluntarily join the city's plan and receive the discounted rate. The city does not pay their bill. Each employee is responsible for making a monthly payment. If a payment is late, the city must collect.
An alternative plan would have employees billed directly by Verizon Wireless. It would have extended an 18-percent discount to enrollees, but Rhoades said it was lacking in other benefits the current plan allows for.
Steve Bartos, city clerk, has told council a City Hall secretary spends on average six hours a month dealing with the cell phone bill, including with collecting late payments. He contacted counsel with state Department of Community and Economic Development, which recommended the city move forward with the 18-percent discount version of the offer citing potential conflicts over billing and privacy.
Rhoades acknowledged to The News-Item on Saturday that he had been late on three payments since August, chalking that up to his schedule and on the amount of time he had been given between receiving an emailed invoice and when payment was requested: six days in January and 11 days in February he cited as examples.
An automatic deduction would put a stop to any late payments by all employees, of which there had been six others.
When council first discussed the offer last year, an electronic deduction was planned. Those plans changed, and the money owed had instead been manually collected from employees.
In other business, council voted to:
- Move forward with a handicap-accessible community garden by Self Advocates of Northumberland County, representatives of which told council last week that Degenstein Foundation pledged money towards the effort. The city will use Community Development Block Grant money if any matching funding is required;
- Table discussion on a requested raise by Kelly Haines, deputy treasurer;
- Permit Treasurer Brenda Scandle to allow up to five hours of overtime a month to the deputy treasurer;
- Approve purchase of new computers for the treasurer's office not to exceed $1,200;
- Allow the Shamokin 150th Anniversary Committee to host a chicken barbecue and 5K fundraising event June 22 at Claude E. Kehler Community Park;
- Grant a $300 permit to Bill Lehman to set up a 20-foot by 80-foot flower tent along Third Street;
- Release funds held in escrow to Roy Whitehair and Brett Russell who each brought fire-damaged buildings up to code;
- Approve West End Fire Company's block party from June 6 to 8;
- Pay for an update to the city's industrial appraisals at a cost not to exceed $415;
- Have Ehrlich Pest Control spray the Shamokin Creek bed for $5,640;
A moment of silence was held at the start of Monday's meeting in honor of former Shamokin Fire Chief David S. Reed, who died Sunday.
Council held a 13-minute executive session for "personnel" reasons.