Council approves union contract with 3 percent a year raises
The Jesup City Council approved a new five-year union contract on a split vote; tabled new ambulance by-laws pending changes; and approved a number of items to keep projects on-going at their Feb. 15 meeting. With a recent history of most meetings lasting much less than an hour, this meeting lasted almost an hour and 45 minutes, with lots of council discussion taking place.

The council voted 4-1 to approve a union contract that included 3% raises each year for five years for the city’s six union employees. Councilman Craig Wright initially acknowledged that he didn’t “know if he liked the five year” commitment. Councilman Todd Rohlfsen objected to committing to five years because it removes the council’s ability to manage one of the largest line items in the budget.

“Locking into this increase takes away one way of managing” the budget, Rohlfsen said.

Councilman Denny Bell indicated that he was torn, noting that it was nice to not have to worry about negotiating for five years. It was reported that negotiations legal fees were around $12,000 for a contract.

Mayor Chris Even said that currently union wages totaled $352,000 per year. With a 3% annual increase, this would increase to $396,000 in five years. If the council failed to approve the contract, already approved by the union, then negotiations would have to start again.

Two questions were raised by City Attorney Heather Prendergast. Does the contract give the council the same opportunities to remove an employee as it has in the past? Yes, there are no changes in this part of the contract. And, will the city’s budget support this type of payroll increase for the next five years?

Another question raised by a council member was: if a 9% health insurance cost increase is on-going, is this kind of payroll increase going to be sustainable?

At the final vote, the contract was approved 4-1, with Rohlfsen the only dissenting vote.

Read the rest of the Council story in the Feb. 24 issue of the Citizen Herald!
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