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City council approves contract with unions

MORRIS, Minn. - The Morris City Council approved new three-year contracts with two city unions at a meeting on Tuesday night.

The new contracts with both the General Unit and the Public Works Unit of the city's American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) unions include wage increases for each of the three years of the contract and a change in the city's health insurance contribution.

Under the new agreement, city employees will receive a 1.5 percent wage increase in 2012, and a two percent wage increase in 2013 and 2014.

In his memo to the city council, City Manager Blaine Hill said, "Originally, I was trying to negotiate a deal that froze wages for 2012 and raise wages two percent for the next two years. However, our health insurance rates came in considerably lower than the current year rates, so this provided some wiggle room for offering a wage increase for 2012."

The health insurance contribution was a point of contention during the negotiations. The city received a bid for health insurance that was about 35 percent less than in the past, which means contribution levels are lower than in 2011.

The contract adjusts the deductible levels for 2012, from $3,500 for a single employee and $7,000 for a family to $2,500 for a single employee and $5,000 for a family.

The contribution for single employees is also capped for the duration of the contracts. If the premium and/or deductible increases, the cost will come out of the contribution. This impacts about 22 of the 35 city employees who have insurance benefits.

For family coverage, the new contract reduces the deductible cost (which is paid for by the family) and funds the premium at the same level as 2011. It also includes an eight percent capped increase to help with rising premium costs in the future. If the premium goes up more than that, the family will pay an additional eight percent, and the city will pay anything over 16 percent.

In his memo, Hill note that "the employees are not necessarily happy with this settlement. I certainly wouldn't be either if I had single coverage. But I think it is in their best interest and the best interest of the community."

The new contracts will be in effect from Jan. 1, 2012 through Dec. 31, 2014.

Other business

• Hill told the council that he would be advertising for individuals interested in farming the land near the airport. The council previously approved an agreement with Gary Jacobson, but Jacobson will not be able to farm the land.

• The council approved a general agency agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation that will allow MNDOT to receive federal transportation aid on behalf of the city.

• The council approved a temporary on-sale liquor license for the American Legion for Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012.

• Mayor Sheldon Giese appointed Tracy Peterson to the Human Rights Commission and Esther Jordan to the Library Board.