Jefferson City Council rejects floating holidays

In a close vote, the Jefferson City Council has rejected a bill that would have provided for two floating holidays for city employees.

At the City Council meeting Tuesday, council members voted 6-4 against the floating holidays, which were originally proposed as a way to compensate city staff in a year where wage increases would not be given. Fourth Ward Councilwoman Carrie Carroll, 3rd Ward Councilman Bob Scrivner, 4th Ward Councilman Carlos Graham and 3rd Ward Councilman Ken Hussey cast the affirmative votes.

The holidays only would have been given to full-time employees and the four part-time employees who have benefits. The floating holidays were included in City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus’ draft 2014 budget, but were not included in Mayor Eric Struemph’s proposed budget. The cost of providing the holidays to employees was estimated to be $7,500.

Carroll, who sponsored the bill, urged council members to vote in favor of the holidays, noting the move would increase employee satisfaction and morale.

“We are only as good as our employees,” Carroll said. “We rely every day on the employees at City Hall.”

“There is no way that I will vote for a budget that has nothing for employees … I am just appalled by it frankly.”

Carroll noted city employees currently receive 10 paid holidays, while state employees receive 12 and Columbia city employees receive 12 with one floating holiday.

Other council members voiced their support for the staff as well, but noted the issues with the proposal were based disbelief of the proposed cost and dissatisfaction with the process of the bill.

“I don’t disagree with the need to reward our staff,” said 2nd Ward Councilman J. Rick Mihalevich. “I’m against this on the grounds that we are trying to create policy through budget … I object to being put in this position.”

“I hope my vote isn’t considered anti-staff.”

Fifth Ward Councilman Ralph Bray agreed, saying he believes it was wrong for the Council Committee on Administration to call a special meeting to ensure the proposal was dealt with before the budget process finished.

“That in itself sends the wrong message,” Bray said. “I believe the floating holidays is the wrong thing to do. I think it’s a bad idea. I think it will be costly.”

Mihalevich noted he would like to look for creative ideas on how to reward employees in the future.

After the bill was voted down, Carroll said she appalled by the council’s actions.

“I’m really embarrassed to be serving with the rest of you,” Carroll said of the council members who voted against the bill. “What does it take to get this council to budge just a little bit? … I’m just appalled.”

“I’m so mad that there’s nothing (for employees) ... It’s just ridiculous.”

In other business, the council approved a development agreement with Roar Real Estate 2 and James R. Morris to assist in locating a manufacturing company, which would produce bags for dog food producers, to the area.

The company would locate onto 9.16 acres of a 25-acre tract owned by the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce west of Alpla.

The company, which is based in Bloomington, Ill., has not been named by the city or the chamber. However, Morris Packaging is a Bloomington manufacturer and has recently advertised for positions opening in Jefferson City. Morris, the company’s owner, has not returned calls by the News Tribune.

The agreement with the city requires the city and county to provide a sanitary sewer system to the property, which is estimated to cost about $16,000. It also calls for an extension of the current Alpla rail spur at the expense of the city and county once the company requests it, as long as it’s within three years of the agreement.

The company, which would like to be in operation by February 2014, has promised to create at least 20 jobs.

Related to the development agreement, the council suspended the rules and both introduced and approved a bill to authorize a cost share agreement with the county for the project. The city and county have agreed to share the costs evenly, with each entity expected to be responsible for about $8,000 to $10,000. The Cole County Commission is expected to take up the agreement this week.

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