Pelham narrowly passes employee education pay revision

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The Pelham City Council voted 3-2 during an Aug. 22 meeting to change the way the city provides monetary bonuses for employees who obtain a bachelor’s degree while employed by Pelham.

Council President Mike Dickens, Councilman Bill Meadows and Councilwoman Teresa Nichols voted in favor of changing the education incentive plan, and Councilman Steve Powell and Councilwoman Karyl Rice voted against.

Currently, Pelham’s employee education committee reviews education incentive applications submitted by city employees and votes on whether or not to award the employee a 5 or 10 percent pay increase.

Through the new plan, which will take effect Aug. 30, the education incentive process will be handled by the city’s human resources director, and employees will be eligible to receive up to a $2,000 one-time bonus if they are approved.

Council President Mike Dickens said the current education incentive plan “needed to be changed,” and said some employees have “abused and manipulated” the system in the past.

Shortly before voting on the new plan, the council voted 3-0, with Nichols and Meadows abstaining, to approve a pay increase for Pelham Fire Department medic Wayne Weaver. Because Weaver obtained a bachelor’s degree in general business from the University of Alabama, some council members said Weaver’s degree should not be considered “in-field” for his job.

Weaver’s education incentive approval came to the council because the education committee was not able to make a decision on the matter.

“Do any of you think we should approve a bachelor’s of science in general business and in-field for a fire medic?” Nichols asked.

“Numerous people have been granted this very same thing,” Dickens said of Weaver. “There is no greater example of this needing to be changed than what happened here tonight (with Weaver’s education incentive approval).”

Rice said changing the incentive from a pay increase to a one-time bonus could have a detrimental effect on the city’s workforce.

“Our purpose with the education incentive was to encourage people to get their degrees and be a better workforce for the city,” Rice said. “I see this as people who are wishing to progress will get their degrees and move on to other cities.”