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Union negotiations break down

Fri, Feb 9th, 2001
Posted in

Monday, February 12, 2001

The Fillmore County Board could not reach an agreement with the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local , at its meeting last Tuesday, and will now go to mediation in an attempt to reach agreement on a new contract for the Countys highway department workers.

The Board has been negotiating with union business agent Mike Daniels for several months to develop a new contract for the Fillmore County highway workers. An impasse developed over wages and seniority, and despite several strategy sessions held during the course of regular Tuesday meetings, a final agreement could not be reached.

The union is requesting a 10.4% wage increase, plus a 5.4% increase in benefits, for an overall package increase of 15.8% over the next two years. The County Board agreed with the benefit increase of 5.4%, but would not move past a 7.2% increase in wages.

On the seniority issue, the county would like to have the flexibility to temporarily use workers as needed for specific tasks without having to pay a higher wage, even if those tasks normally receive a higher wage.

The unions position would require workers to be paid a higher wage if they performed a task in the next higher wage class, even if for a minimum of 1 hour work in the higher class. However, under the Unions proposal, the workers pay wouldnt lower for tasks normally done under a lower scale until after the tasks are performed for a minimum of 30 days.

Last month, the Board did reach an agreement with the Local union representatives on a contract for workers at the Resource Recovery Center. Under that agreement, the resource recovery workers will receive an overall 7.9% increase in their wage and benefit package for 2001.

Other Highway Business

County Engineer Steve Voigt received approval from the Board to purchase a new backhoe and a new dozer. The low bid for both pieces of equipment was received from St. Joseph Equipment of LaCrosse.

Utilizing the States buying program, the County will trade in its Case 590SL backhoe for a Case 590SM backhoe with a net cost after trade-in of $16,700. A similar trade-in deal for the dozer will result in a price of $11,900 on a new Case 850H Crawler Dozer.

The County Board also approved a long list of payments for work performed on county roads. In all cases, a portion of the contract was held as a retainer pending completion of the projects.

Commissioner Duane Bakke asked Engineer Voigt what the county is spending on contracts with private engineering consultants for design and inspection services. To Voigts response of $1,200,000, Bakke inquired, "What if we had more staff, could we eliminate some of those costs?"

"We could eliminate some, maybe one third to one half of those costs," responded Voigt.

"Could you bid the consulting fees?" inquired Bakke.

"Yes, through a formal RFP (request for proposal) process," replied Voigt.

Voigts department is experiencing a shortage of qualified engineering technicians, partly attributable to the Countys inability to be competitive with private engineering firms (that probably have lucrative county contracts).

Feedlot Registration

The County Feedlot Officer, Mike Frauenkron, presented the Board with an update on the feedlot registration program. To date, 1,477 feedlots have been registered in the county. Of this number, 981 feedlots were reported as greater than 50 animal units, and 6 were reported less than 50 animal units.

The Board also reviewed a proposed budget for Frauenkrons office. Working with County Water Plan Coordinator Donna Rasmussen, and Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) Manager Kevin Scheidecker, Frauen-kron prepared a 2001 grantbased revenue budget that will exceed his expenditure budget by $2811 if all grants are received.

The total expenditure budget for the Feedlot office would be $152,070 under the proposed budget, and would include money for education (including manure management incentives), technical services, and cost-share practices.

Another Election

Though he was not present at this meeting, Commissioner Gary Peterson has finalized his resignation plans, informing the Board that his last day as a Commissioner of the 3rd District will be March 14, 2001. The County Attorney and the Auditor have been planning the special election, which will occur on April 17.

The filing period for the third district seat will run from February 20-26, and a primary, if needed, will be held on March 13. Peterson announced his resignation at the January 23 meeting of the Board, citing time conflicts with his new job as News Director of KAAL-TV in Austin as his primary reason for relinquishing his seat.

Peterson ran unopposed for his position in the November election, and was just three weeks into his fifth term as a Fillmore County Commissioner when he submitted his resignation. It is yet to be determined what cost the county will incur in holding this special election.

Mike McGrath

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