Council talks staff overtime pay

Kenai City Council mulled over an ordinance Wednesday evening that would change the overtime rate paid to city employees. The ordinance passed with an initial 5-3 vote but was not passed on a second vote. City employees still will receive an overtime rate of three-and-a-half times the normal rate on holidays. 

 

Council member Mike Boyle said changing the overtime rate paid would have minimal economic impact, saving $3,000 annually, and send a message that employees are not to be rewarded for arduous tasks, like working on holidays and 16- hour shifts of snow plowing. 

The council’s student representative Austin Daly disagreed, arguing the changes proposed to the municipal code were not meant to slight employees. Rather, the changes clarify the overtime rate. She also said the monetary amount saved did matter. 

“There are times when $3,000 makes a huge difference,” she said. 

The council passed another dozen ordinances Wednesday without prolonged discussion. It unanimously passed an ordinance instigating a senior discount for parks and recreation fees, as well as an ordinance increasing the funds to repair city facilities damaged during the Nov. 16, 2011 winter storm. 

Ordinance 2617-2012 consists of two components: elimination of the requirement to pay temporary employees overtime rates in excess of standards set by the Fair Labor Standards Act and a sentence in municipal code 23.25.060 that resulted in payment of overtime on holidays at rates three-and-a-half times the normal hourly rate. 

However, the council focused discussion on the latter. 

Boyle said the two issues should have been examined separately before arguing his opposition to changing the code granting three-and-a-half times pay. 

“To me, it’s saying we don’t appreciate what the workers are doing,” he said. 

Kenai finance director Terry Eubank said the error was brought to his attention by the city’s department heads. The city’s employees are appreciated, and they are compensated for their long shifts with numerous three-day weekends, he added. 

Mayor Pat Porter supported the ordnance, arguing the council has a responsibility to taxpayers to operate the city departments efficiently. 

On the first vote, council members Boyle, Brian Gabriel and Terry Bookey voted against the ordinance. 

Later, the vote was reconsidered. Before the second vote, council member Tim Navarre said the practice was an error and should not continue. He also echoed the words of Porter. 

“We have to look out for the citizens who will question the heightened pay.

“10 years from now they’ll be up here saying the cost (yearly) is $7,000, because both the increase in pay and all the other things will start multiplying too… Let’s correct this problem while if fair and equitable,” he said. 

Council member Robert Molloy changed his vote causing a tie and the failure of passage for the ordinance.

The first ordinance passed Wednesday provides residents who are 60 years of age or older a discount at the city’s boat launch as well as North and South Beach parking. It will eliminate boat launch and parking fees from Aug. 1 through July 9. 

The discount will not result in a significant decrease in city revenues, according to the resolution. 

Dwight Kramer of Kenai spoke before the council on behalf of the Kenai Area Fisherman’s Coalition, a private anglers group with a membership of around 200 local residents. 

Most of the members are seniors, Kramer said. 

A lot of the members have been hit hard by the economic downturn.  Many own boats with older two-stroke engines, which new enforcement regulations will outlaw next year. 

The investment of a new motor will cost anglers about $5,000, he said. 

“These discounts go a long way toward helping seniors… to fish during the fringe months when there aren’t so many tourists,” he said. 

The council also unanimously passed the appropriation of funds to cover the damages caused by a November storm. Increased appropriations total about $60,000. 

President Barack Obama declared the storm a national disaster making funds available to assist the city with repairs. The city is reimbursed for funds spent in response to the storm and funds to restore the city facilities. 

Initial funds reimbursed by the federal government were used to remove downed trees and debris caused by high winds, supply temporary power to facilities during the storm and respond to burst pipes in buildings without power.

The increased estimated revenues and appropriations will cover damages at City Hall and the Vintage Pointe facilities. 


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