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Lebanon council examines possible changes to city personnel benefits

By Angela Simmons

LEBANON – Lebanon aldermen discussed several benefits package and personnel updates at the most recent city council meeting. Alderman Rick Gale, head of the Personnel Committee, brought up the manual changes that seem to be debated the most, and set a special committee meeting to get into the discussion at length. 

City employees currently get paid for ten hours of holiday pay instead of a standard eight, not only for standard holidays, but also Black Friday and Good Friday, a source of debate among many council members. They also get ten hours of sick pay every month, and an additional 17 hours of sick pay towards the end of the year. On top of the sick pay and holiday pay, employees are also given personal and vacation days. 

Gale is proposing several changes, and other aldermen have said that they have previously tried, but changing the personnel manual seems to be an uphill battle. Any changes made would be for non-union employees, and all personnel should be given the option whether or not they want to join. He also suggested tying pay increases to the cost of living standard, instead of an arbitrary amount. 

The council voted to approve a 3.4 percent increase in healthcare benefits, a hike that Gale said comes just one year after a ten percent increase in price. Both the alderman and Mayor Rich Wilken stated that the plan, a platinum plan with a $500 deductible, was not losing any coverage, and was something the city should feel good about offering to their employees. The city was not required to meet with the union because there was no reduction of benefits. 

The insurance plan will be offered on a fiscal term, something Gale notes “provides a very small window for negotiation.” Wilken added that the city hoped to move to a new calendar year based plan at the end of this year, which would allow more negotiation time, and the possibility of finding lower rates. Gale stated multiple times that he does not feel that healthcare prices will get any better. 

The committee will meet again on February 20 to dedicate an entire session to the personnel manual changes, job descriptions, the possibility of a Building Safety Inspector/ Code Enforcement Officer position, and more. Gale said he welcomed the other aldermen that were not on the committee to attend and have a voice in the discussion. The meeting will be held at Lebanon City Hall at 7:00 p.m. The following evening, a special meting of the planning commission will be held at city hall, also at 7:00 p.m.

In Other News:

• In a heated discussion about the flooding at Roger Drive and Merril Street, aldermen asked Mayor Wilken where the plans were from Rhutasel and Associates, Inc. engineer Mark Rujawitz, especially since they were paid for. Alderman Bartholomew said that he even made a note on the bill because it has been paid. Rujawitz presented to the city council two weeks ago, and had promised multiple aldermen that he would email the plans that he had come up with. They’re still waiting. 

Lebanon resident and Ward I alderman candidate Charles Witty asked “Is the city in the habit of paying for something they don’t have?” The bill was over $3,000.

“I don’t have any answer to that. I don’t know how it got paid. I didn’t authorize it,” answered Wilken, adding that the city finance committee caught that it had already been paid out. 

“Maybe it’s an emailable report and we give him a deadline. We’ve got to have it,” Alderman Cheri Wright said. 

“I’ll tell him we want the report that we paid for,” Wilken said, adding that the sooner they had the completed report, the sooner they could put the project out for bids. 

He noted that he has had continued meetings about the property, including the possible addition of a retention pond on McKendree University property to help alleviate flooding. 

• The council approved several purchases for the Water and Sewer Department, including $1,349 for a two inch trash pump, $850 for a metal detector, and $500 for repairing threads on the engine of a 2006 Ford F250. The truck, formerly used by Streets and Alleys, could cost as much as $2,950 to completely repair. 

• The next full-council meeting will be February 25 at 7:00 p.m.