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Burrell Township supervisors seek to split wage increase with employees

| Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

The Burrell Township supervisors started off the year by accepting just half of the pay hike awarded them by the township auditors and designating the other half for the township's other employees.

At their annual reorganization meeting Jan. 7, the township's auditors approved a 3-percent increase in wages the supervisors will receive in 2014 in their roles as township roadmasters. Supervisor Tony Distefano noted the supervisors in past years have granted other township employees the same pay hike the roadmasters have received.

After determining that a typical cost-of-living increase in the area is 1.5 percent, Distefano moved at the supervisors' Jan. 15 meeting to request that the auditors split the 3-percent pay hike, applying a 1.5 percent cost-of-living raise to the roadmasters' wages while passing on the additional 1.5 percent to the township's one seasonal and three regular employees.

“There have been no cuts in (township employee) benefits at a time when people are losing benefits and paying for benefits,” Distefano said. “I feel that a 1.5 percent raise in addition to not losing any benefits would be fair to all parties.”

The 1.5 percent increase would bring the roadmasters' hourly wages to $17.08, up from $16.83.

“Our employees are so close to our wages, if we gave them a raise and we didn't get one, they'd actually make more than we do,” said Larry Henry, in his first meeting as the new chairman of the board of supervisors.

Distefano pointed out that the supervisors do not have the authority to set the roadmaster pay rate — the request must be made to the auditors for approval.

The township's elected auditors are Gilbert Woodley, Jen Henry and Cindy Weaver.

The supervisors received a request from the Indiana County Department of Human Services, asking help in pinpointing probable sites where homeless individuals and families may be taking shelter.

The county receives homeless assistance funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which requires regular counts of homeless people. A county-wide count will take place Wednesday.

Tents, garages, wooded areas, campgrounds and vehicles were named as places where homeless people might be taking shelter.

If anyone knows of anyone who is homeless, they can refer them to the Indiana County Community Action Program for assistance at 724-248-9555.

In other business, Jane Kokolis was approved for another three-year term on the Burrell Township Library board of trustees. She served as secretary/treasurer the past two years and was recently appointed vice president.

The library board was also granted permission to conduct its first 5K “Run 4 R Library” race and walk planned for 8-11 a.m. June 21. Distefano pointed out that the approval is for township facilities and resources. Permission to use the Ghost Town Trail, as proposed, would need to be requested through Indiana County Parks and Trails.

The township office will be closed Feb. 17 in observance of Presidents' Day.

At the supervisors' Jan. 6 reorganization meeting, Henry assumed the position of chairman of the board after a nomination by outgoing chairman John Shields. On a motion by Distefano, Shields was made vice president.

Henry was also named chief executive officer.

Helen Olechovski was retained as the township secretary/treasurer, William T. Shulick will continue to serve as township solicitor, and James Garvin of Blairsville was retained as township engineer. Gibson-Thomas of Latrobe was appointed as bridge engineer.

The supervisors set township office hours as 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 Monday through Friday, and the board will continue to meet at 7 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month.

Gina DelFavero is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2915 or gdelfavero@tribweb.com.

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