Highland News Leader

City of Highland approves two union contracts

The Highland City Council approved collective bargaining agreements with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 309 and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 3672 at its meeting Monday, Feb. 20.

The agreements for both unions expired in May 2016, but there was never any work stoppage while city officials and the unions continued to negotiate.

Most of the changes in both agreements had to do with language, dates and standardizing the terms to match other city employee contracts. But the major changes came down to money.

After a mediation process, three yearly raises were agreed upon for IBEW workers. They will get raises of 2.75, 2.25 and 3 percent. Raises for time that has already passed be applied retroactively and disbursed accordingly.

The new IBEW contract is a three-year deal that started retroactively May 1, 2016 and will expire April 30, 2019. Other than the salary increases, it was agreed upon that the union would be allowed a $50 increase for safety boots and a $25 increase for safety glasses. Each allowance was previously $300.

Union and city officials also agreed that the contract needed to represent all positions, including the new position of a Highland Communications Service (HCS) technician. To accommodate the new position, an on-call pay provision for the technicians was added to the contract, which matches the provision for the electrical linemen. The provision allows employees to choose either 10 hours of comp time or 10 hours of pay when they are on-call. It was also agreed that the provision would stay the same with pay and would be the only option until June 2017.

According to Latham, because the Highland firefighters serve on a volunteer basis, most of the changes for the IAFF agreement were based on emergency medical services (EMS) staff.

In a memo, the Highland Fire Department Chief Brian Wilson said “much of the work went to cleaning up outdated language, reorganizing the content and making changes bargained for on both sides.”

A wage increase of 2.5 percent each year for paramedics and a 5 percent increase each year for two full-time emergency medical technicians (EMT), both retroactive to May 1, 2016, was approved in the new contract.

The addition of a new check-leveling process was also agreed upon. Instead of having paychecks being made up of the actual hours worked, the new process will have the baseline paychecks be the average across the 28-day pay cycle. This change was made to prevent fluctuating and irregular pay checks.

The negotiations also expanded the “fitness for duty” section of the contract to include mental health and increased the length of time for disciplinary action with time off from one year to three.

Steps were also added to the agreement’s grievance procedure to include the public safety director and allowable consecutive work hours were increased from 26 to 48 hours. Also, advanced notice for sick leave was increased from 15 minutes to one hour before the scheduled start time of the shift and advanced notice for vacation time use was reduced from 30 days to two weeks.

Notable contract removals included references to a 2013 10-cent increase for employees and the removal of the pension and retirement plan section. According to Wilson, the section was removed due to the collapse of the Madison County Firemen’s Pension Fund.

Contract language changes included clarifying procedures for voluntary and mandatory overtime, calculating previous shift supervisor pay and standardizing the contract’s bereavement section to match all city employees.

The city also has agreed to reimburse paramedics for the new $40 fee for license renewal that is required every four years.

The new contract has a two-year-term that started May 1, 2016 and will end April 30, 2018.

Other action

FFA week

Young ladies of the Highland Future Farmers of America were welcomed to the council meeting, where Mayor Joe Michaelis proclaimed Feb. 18-25 as FFA Week.

The club members, accompanied by their adviser, Don Schmitz, introduced themselves to the council. According to Schmitz, FFA week is a fun week used to promote their culture and the activities promoted by the organization. Schmitz said joining the FFA is not just about agriculture.

“They can find a niche that meets their needs and their goals,” Schmitz said.

The organization promotes premier leadership, personal growth and career success with their motto “learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live, living to serve.”

Swap meet funding approved

A funding request in the amount of $500 for the 22nd annual Automotive Swap Meet was approved by the council.

Dick Conner of Misfit Motorsports Productions addressed the council. According to Conner, about 100 vendors participate in the event and come to Highland from the states surrounding Illinois. Conner also said that the meet draws around 1,000 to 1,500 customers every year.

The funding will be used for statewide advertising is various newspapers. The meet will be held at the Madison County Fairgrounds on Sunday, March 5 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Fun Run approved

The date for the Bunny Fun Run and Walk 5K was approved by the council. The event, which was coordinated by the Highland Community Schools Parent Teacher Organization, will be April 1.

The 5K run will begin across the street from the Highland Primary School at 8:30 a.m. The 1K run/walk will begin at 9 a.m. at the same place. The event is expected to end at 11 a.m.

The organization had previously requested a closure for the run route, but the Highland Police Department had doubts whether or not they would be able to completely shut down the whole route. HPD will be providing personnel to direct traffic at major intersections.

The entry fee for the event is $20 if participants preregister by March 20, otherwise the run will cost $25. The price of the race includes a T-shirt, and 100 percent of the event proceeds go directly back to the PTO. The organization helps to fund new technology, supplies, classroom items that are not budgeted, as well as programs and special events.

The organization is encouraging participants to wear bunny ears, cottontails and face paint with a pair of customary whiskers and nose.

Appointments approved

The council approved various appointments and re-appointments made by Michaelis to several Highland commissions and boards.

Recently, the president of the Library Board of Trustees, Ronald Coleman, passed away. Michaelis appointed Joshua Short to the vacant position. Short has lived in Highland for 22 years and currently works with the National Archives and Records Administration as an archive technician. Michaelis said that Short is an excellent candidate for the job. He will serve for the remainder of Coleman’s term, which expires in June of 2017.

Michaelis also appointed Donald Rommerskirchen to the Silver Lake Advisory Commission. Rommerskirchen works as a lock and security specialist for the Federal Bureau of Prisons and has 32 years of experience with law enforcement. He has lived in Highland for 11 years. Rommerskirchen will be replacing long-term commission member Bill Ambuehl, who will be resigning from his position when his term expires.

Michaelis also re-appointed Gary Pugh and Randy Ammann to the Silver Lake Advisory Commission, both of their terms would expire soon, but now they will serve with Rommerskirchen until July of 2020.

Michaelis also re-appointed Stephen Thiems and Clifton Couch to the Cemetery Board of Managers. Both of their terms would have expired soon, however, both Thiems and Couch agreed to serve additional two-year terms that will expire on March 1, 2019.

City to seek parks grant

The council gave the OK for Michaelis to file an application for a grant through the Madison County Park Enhancement Program.

If granted to the city, the funds will be used to create a 310-foot long sidewalk at Silver Lake. The walkway will help provide access to the fishing dock and marina and will run from the parking lot down to the dock.

The whole project is expected to cost $17,380.

City officials said that the funding for sidewalk may go over the amount of funds granted. If this is the case, the city will find a way to fund the completion of the project.

The city will be notified about the awarding of the funds after March 15, and the project will be completed by The Korte Company.

Bid waiving approved

The council approved the city to waive customary bidding procedure on the purchase of a JT9 horizontal boring machine from Ditch Witch. The machine will be purchased at a pre-negotiated price for $114,270.

The bidding was waived because the purchase falls under a National Joint Power Alliance program and is competitively priced to give the city the best deal. According to the City Manager Mark Latham, this is a budgeted purchase.

Dan Cook, the director of the Highland Light & Power, informed the council that the department is also using a Vermeer horizontal boring machine that is nearing the end of its service life.

Cook also told the council that the department was currently in need of two boring machines due to the amount of construction ongoing in the city. However, once the current construction is completed, the Vermeer machine will be counted as surplus property and sold at auction.

Pool agreement approved

The council approved a rental agreement between the Korte Recreation Center and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Highland.

The KRC rents portions of the swimming pool to the hospital so patients can participate in aquatic therapy.

The hospital submitted a schedule with the requested times specified in the lease.

The hospital has also agreed to pay a rental fee of $2.50 per patient visit in exchange for the leased pool time.

The lease is for a one-year-term, which begins March 1 and expires Feb 28, 2018.