Wauseon approves contract with firefighters

By David J. Coehrs - [email protected]

Wauseon City Council on Monday approved a new contract with its firefighters and made a small adjustment to the wage scale of city employees.

During a meeting streamed on Zoom, Council passed an emergency resolution authorizing Mayor Kathy Huner to enter into a collective bargaining agreement with the Wauseon Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 5223. The contract will extend through April 1, 2023, and allows for a $500 signing bonus. But it stipulates that a firefighter who resigns from their post will forfeit their merit bonus, since those bonuses are spread throughout the year.

Council members also approved a Finance Committee recommendation for a city wage scale modification change by 3.1%, based on Consumer Price Index increases in 2019 and through 2020. Councilor Patrick Griggs voted against the measure.

The wage scale modification was originally recommended by Finance Director Jamie Giguere. Law Director Tom McWatters III said increasing the wage scale is not meant to affect employee wages, but rather to prevent employees from maxing out at the top of the scale.

Finance Committee member Steve Schneider told Council members he was concerned that some city employees had topped out and couldn’t get an increase. “That’s one of the reasons why we want to keep the wage scale adjusted, so that we don’t get to that situation,” he said.

The council also approved the committee’s recommendation to give an across-the-board wage increase of 2.25% and a merit increase to all non-union full-time city employees.

“Everybody, I think, is concerned about budget going up and revenue going down, but I think this is something that’s necessary based on the fact that we’re asking a lot of people in this COVID time right now to do a lot of work over and above maybe what they would normally have to do in maybe more dangerous situations,” Schneider said.

In department reports:

• Police Chief Kevin Chittenden said interviews for a dispatcher’s position were completed and the top candidate was made a conditional offer pending a successful polygraph test. He declined to name the candidate. Chittenden said he anticipates a Jan. 4 beginning date.

• Finance Director Jamie Giguere said city insurance renewals were returned with a slight increase due to numerous claims for city vehicles and equipment. She said the increase was expected.

She said November income tax revenue improved over the previous month. Giguere said revenue was down 3.6% – or $133,000 – compared to the same time last year.

She also reported that the Finance Department received an additional $11,000 in government COVID relief funds after Fulton County entities returned their funding. The extra money will be used toward police and fire wages.

Council also approved emergency passage of a resolution authorizing the mayor to enter into an agreement with Ohio Plan Risk Management for casualty, liability, fire, and property damage insurance.

And council members passed first readings for resolutions authorizing: a permanent easement to Ohio Gas Co. for a 20-foot strip of land along the southeast corner of a county parcel near the corner of Linfoot Street and County Road 13; an agreement with Pareto Captive Services, LLC, Sun Life Financial, and Mutual Health Services for the provision of health insurance for 2021; an agreement with Met Life to provide life insurance and voluntary dental and vision insurance for full-time employees.

Second readings approved included a resolution authorizing an agreement for indigent defense services in County Court with the Fulton County Commissioners and authorization of an agreement for a county-wide Emergency Management Agency, pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Section 5502.

In new business, Council members voted to appoint Councilors Shane Chamberlin and Scott Stiriz to the Volunteer Firefighter Dependent Board.

Councilor Harold Stickley asked the mayor if the city’s municipal building was scheduled to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Huner said the city hasn’t been asked to do that.

“We’re trying to abide by all the rules of the safety of our employees coming in, and, going through it in the spring, we’ve also offered other options for people to take care of their bills and questions and things,” Huner said.

Stickley also asked the Finance Committee to watch the spending of city departments through next year’s city budget.

By David J. Coehrs

[email protected]

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.