County raises debated by council

Published 5:57 pm Sunday, October 1, 2017

One of the biggest questions at Thursday’s Ironton City Council was about raises given to the employees of the Ironton Municipal Court.

Members of the council got a copy of the contract earlier this week, which gave court employees almost $14,000 in raises. But the contract didn’t come before the council for approval and

Mayor Katrina Keith didn’t negotiate the contract. It was negotiated by Judge Clark Collins.

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Councilman Bob Cleary said in all his years on council, or as mayor, he had never seen that done before.

Cleary said he asked legal counsel for an opinion on whether the court employees could unionize.

Joe Johnson, a member of the city union group AFSCME 771-2, asked if the court employees were considered city employees. Vice Mayor Craig Harvey turned the question over to council’s legal council Bob Anderson.

Anderson explained that under Ohio law, court employees are one of the groups that cannot demand collective bargaining, but the employer, the judge, can collectively bargain with the employees.

“Whoever their employer is wishes to do it, then they can do it,” he said. “That is apparently what happened here.”

Johnson asked why the employees are being paid out of the city’s general fund. Anderson replied that is how it is set up under the Ohio Revised Code.

Johnson asked that if the court could do whatever it wanted, Harvey replied “Apparently so.”

Both are represented by the same union, AFSME 771, but are two separate entities, the city workers are in AFSME 77-2 and the court employees are in AFSME 771-3.

Johnson said that the AFSME 771-2 was unhappy about the fact that the contract has a “me too” clause which says if any city employee gets a raise, the court employees do to and that it is a three-year contract.

“Nothing can be changed for three years, they don’t even have to bargain,” he said.

He held up a piece of paper with a list of names.

“We have gone through our union body today, and this is a list of people of everyone signing a contract because of this,” he said.

AFSCME 771-2 and the city have been negotiating a new contract but it has yet to be signed.

“We will not sign the contract with that hanging over our heads,” Johnson said, adding they were going to discuss the matter with their union representative on Monday.

Linda McKnight asked for an update on the Batham Lane and Orchard Street projects. She was told that those were on the agenda and would get second readings.

Mayor Keith was asked if they were any updates with the EPA, which is mandating the sewer separation project in the city.

She said that she would be having a telephone conference with the Ohio EPA and the federal EPA in October.

“We will be discussing modifications, not sure how in depth the modifications will be or what it will consist of,” she said. “But they have at least agreed to discuss it with me.”

She said she was hoping that one of the modifications would be the removal of a wall that may be the cause of basement flooding on the north end of town.

“My fingers are crossed,” she said.

Keith said that a fourth town hall meeting would be at First Church of the Nazarene at 6 p.m. on Oct. 22.

“We will outline the financial status of the city and get people up to speed on what resources we really have, the combined sewer separation project and the mandates on us,” she said. “I encourage people to come out and get a true understanding of what we are dealing with.”

In items on the agenda, an item to amend Ironton Revised Code to allow signs to be 35 foot rather than 20 feet got a first reading.

An item to raise the storm water rates was tabled prior to the second reading.

An item to hire an independent engineering firm to study the problem of flooding on the north end of town was adopted.

There was a first reading of an ordinance allow the mayor to submit applications for financial assistance from Ohio Public Works Commission state capital improvement for the separation of sewers in the south end of Ironton.

Two ordinances were tabled and sent to finance committee for recommendation. The ordinance would allow the mayor to submit applications for financial assistance from Ohio Public Works Commission state capital improvement and to apply for a loan for wastewater facility construction and Third Street waterline rehabilitation got first reading.

The council declined to have a public hearing about Family Dollar Store getting a liquor license. The council has stated in the past that no one ever attends the meetings.

The Ironton City Council meets at 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursday of the month on the third floor of the City Center.

On Oct. 12 at 5 p.m., there will be a finance committee meeting prior to the council’s regular meeting.