Wilmington City Council approves $1.3 million to increase wages for employees, grant funds to continue opioid overdose response program

Wilmington City Council approves $1.3 million for wage increases for employees
Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 7:35 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 6, 2022 at 6:25 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Wilmington City Council members voted unanimously to approve employee wage increases at a meeting Tuesday evening to address job vacancies and high staff turnover.

A market study revealed that compensation had fallen behind other similar size communities, specifically for fire and police officers. The study showed fire officer compensation was 14% below market rates and pay for police officers was 13% below. General salaries were found to be 8% below similar markets.

As suggested during a budget work session on March 25, the city will spend $1,318,769 to increase employee wages. Research conducted over several months beginning in August of last year concluded that the city should increase employee wages to stay competitive and fill vacant city positions.

“Waiting for the new fiscal year to begin [implementing wage increases] in July of 2022, could result in further loss of current employees to other higher paying markets, and would continue to strain the City’s current workforce,” writes City Manager Anthony Claude in the ordinance.

Other items approved

A unanimous vote paved the way for $250,000 in grant funding to help pay for the reconstruction of eight tennis courts at the Althea Gibson Tennis Complex. The funding comes from an agreement with the NC Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) and accounts for increasing costs of construction since the project’s inception.

The council also approved plans to enter an agreement with the NC OSBM for $250,000 in grant funding to conduct rail studies for the Rail Realignment Project. As the city explains in an attached letter, “The Rail Realignment Project would create a bypass freight rail route from Navassa into the Port of Wilmington and would allow for the acquisition and re-purposing of the existing freight rail right-of-way for alternative public transportation uses such as a mass transit system or a greenway for pedestrians and bicyclists.”

Following unanimous approval, the city plans to put $750,000 in grant funds towards continuation of the Opioid Overdose Quick Response Team program with Coastal Horizons. Coastal Horizons has operated the Quick Response Team since 2018 to provide resources and assistance for people struggling with Opioid addiction. Overdose deaths including opioids and other substances have been on the rise for years in North Carolina, and 2021 saw deaths increase by 21% to 366 total deaths.

A resolution from councilman Charlie Rivenbark was approved unanimously for the City of Wilmington to seek funding assistance from the State of North Carolina for a 10-mile, 48-inch redundant water line to maintain reliable water access in southeastern NC. In the resolution, Rivenbark referenced the water leak last November in this section of the line. It was noted that a more severe leak could result in requiring people “to take extreme conservation measures”.

Due to the estimated cost of such a line being $54 million, the city wants to seek state funding so that the Lower Cape Fear Water and Sewer Authority does not need to bear the brunt of the cost.

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