Council approves pay increases for Albemarle electrical workers

Published 2:14 pm Monday, March 28, 2022

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In order to ensure the retention of employees within Albemarle’s electrical division, the city council last week approved an hourly increase for these workers to get their compensation closer in line with standard market pay.

Level 1 workers will now receive $21.43 per hour (up from $19.96), level 2 workers will receive $24.50 (up from $21.95), level 3 workers will receive $29 (up from $24.81) and crew leaders will receive $32.80 (up from $28.55).

In a presentation before council advocating for the recommended action, Albemarle Human Resources Director Dana Chaney and Public Utilities Director Dan Worl explained that the new hourly pay amounts were chosen after looking at various factors, including how much similar size municipalities paid their electrical workers.

The total impact to the current fiscal year budget comes in at about $47,000, which includes overtime, payroll tax and retirement.

Workers within the electrical division are included as part of the first year of a rotating market study, aiming to financially bolster areas within the city with the greatest turnover, according to the presentation. The plan for the second year is to focus on frontline operations (fire department, public housing, parks and recreation) while the third year would focus on support teams in more administrative roles.

The increased pay for electrical workers will hopefully keep them in Albemarle and dissuade them from going to work either in the private sector or to surrounding cities, such as Monroe, according to the presentation.

Over the last 12 months, the city lost one crew leader and two level I and level II workers, which equates to a turnover rate of about 28 percent. Currently five employees have active job offers and if they left, the turnover rate would soar to about 56 percent. In the next six years, according to the presentation, there will be seven senior employees eligible to retire with few people to replace them.

The city contracts with one crew from Lee Electrical  of Aberdeen, but after losing so many workers in the past year two more Lee crews at a minimum will need to be hired at $650,000 per year to continue providing adequate services to the community.

The majority of the Lee Electrical crew live at least an hour away, according to Worl, so if a storm or accident results in major outages, it often takes longer for the crews to get the power back up and running.

Chaney told council that over the past few years, largely during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been an increase in turnover within city staff as a whole, including the police and fire departments. This is part of a broader movement — the so-called Great Resignation — where workers across the country have been changing jobs and switching careers.

“What we’re seeing with recruitment, it’s so difficult right now, I’m having people accept offers and then before their first day they’re rescinding because they’re getting something else,” Chaney said.

The council members debated tabling a decision until they could properly digest all the data that had been presented.

“I just think this is a lot for us to decide tonight,” Councilwoman Martha Hughes said. “If we vote on this tonight without giving this serious consideration, and I’m not saying yes or no, I’m saying let’s stop, take a second, review, read, digest. That’s all I’m asking.”

Several council members, including Hughes, brought up the fact that the other city workers would likely not be very happy knowing their 19 colleagues in the electrical division received a pay increase and they have not.

After much back and forth, the council approved a motion supporting the specific pay increases for the electrical workers.

Upon Mayor Pro Tem Martha Sue Hall’s request, council also approved, as part of the motion, another less expensive option for health insurance to be included in the upcoming budget along with a new health and wellness program.

“I know we’ve got some folks who work for us in every department that have to choose whether they’re going to have their families have insurance or they’re going to have something else,” Hall said. “We’ve got to do something about that.”

In other matters, the council:

  • Approved two map amendments. The first would rezone a vacant .32-acre parcel on Belmont Circle from Light Industrial District to Residential Office District in order to build a new single-family home and the second would rezone 6.59 acres at the intersection of Russell Road and U.S. Highway 52 north from General Residential District and General Highway Business District to only General Highway Business District.
  • Appointed Joey Gathings to the No. 2 seat on the Planning and Zoning Board and Marcus Owens to the first alternate spot. Also appointed Julia Curtis and Micah Shaprio to serve as alternate members.
  • Heard a brief update from Fire Chief T. Pierre Brewton about the department having been recently awarded $27,997 by the Cannon Foundation to purchase a Swift Water Rescue Boat.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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