Jeff council okays union contract, insurance renewal

Gets update on quiet zones and animal shelter

The Jefferson city council approved a new five-year contract with members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the union representing 17 non-salaried employees in the Jefferson police, street, sanitation, water, wastewater, and park/cemetery department.

The contract has “minimal changes,” according to city administrator Mike Palmer. The contract has wage increases of 2.5 percent every year, with a 3 percent raise for the police sergeant in the first year.

The city council also approved renewing its insurance through Unger Insurance representing EMC.

Jim Unger said the renewal premium will increase $18,000 for the year starting April 1, with much of the increase being due to “a dramatic hit” in worker’s compensation claims.

The increase in worker’s comp insurance is based on a three-year loss experience, Unger explained. He said the company under estimated the cost of  claims that were still open a year ago, when the renewal rate was set for 2015-16. “We had some claims that went south on us. I don’t think there’s anything someone can do. Sometimes bad things happen to people,” Unger said.

He said he expects to see the rate go up again next year, based on claims the company has not yet closed. EMC will do a loss prevention study soon, Unger said.

During council member reports, Lisa Jaskey reported that the street committee has discussed quiet zones and closing railroad crossings. The committee has requested an updated count on the railroad crossings from Snyder & Associates. Once those counts are received, the committee will hold a public meeting. She said Union Pacific will pay for closing crossings but not for putting up the double crossing arms that create a quiet zone (without railroad whistles). Cost of a quiet zone is about $150,000, she said.

She also said the steering committee for a new animal shelter has met and has identified a site that has enough room for a dog park. Don Orris is spearheading the project. He has looked closely at a new shelter being built in Carroll. Looking at that project, the committee estimates the cost of a new shelter to be $800,000 to $1 million.

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