The Boonville City Council voted 5-1 to approve the new city employee manual on Monday night, which included changes to how time off is calculated for city employees.

Fourth Ward Councilman Morris Carter voting “no,” and Second Ward Councilwoman Vanessa Dorman and Third Ward Councilman Brent Bozarth were both absent.

The new manual takes effect at the beginning of January, and replaces the last update from 2017. Changes to awards for employees who have water and wastewater treatment licenses, and changes to how paid time off is calculated were the council’s main topics of discussion.

Carter said the manual added a holiday and gave a group of city employees a “pay raise,” which he felt wasn’t discussed enough with the council. He said he noticed the changes by comparing the proposed 2020 manual to a copy of the previous manual from 2017.

Fjell said that’s why she had highlighted those changes in a memo attached to the new handbook, issued to the council as a part of their packet for the Dec. 2 meeting, where the manual was first discussed. The pay raise is a $5 increase to the monthly awards for people with Department of Natural Resources licenses for water and wastewater treatment, or water distribution.

“I think one of the things Kate did well was give us at leat a prelude, an introduction to some of the changes, but maybe what we need to do is emphasize them a little bit more,” Mayor Ned Beach said.

Morris said that while it’s not a major pay raise, any pay raises are typically handled when the city works on the budget at the beginning of the calendar year. Fjell said they have the space in the current budget year to cover the additional awards through March, and they can build them into the next fiscal year’s budget, which will begin in April.

Fjell said the increase was Public Works Director M.L. Cauthon’s idea, because those award rates hadn’t been changed in 30 years. Cauthon said it’s not a salary question, and it only affects the eight employees who hold those licenses, so the increase would cost about $500 to the city. The employees go to school and study to get the licenses, and complete periodic continuing education to keep them, Cauthon said.

The additional holiday is a floating holiday that replaces a discretionary day, which came out of the employee’s sick leave. In total, city employees have 11 holiday days off a year, including: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas, the employee’s birthday, and now the floating holiday. If employees don’t use the floating holiday during the calendar year, they lose it, Fjell said.

“I think it’s reasonable,” Second Ward Councilwoman Susan Meadows said. “It gives a little more flexibility in how a person uses that time off. I think many institutions that I’m aware of have that type of a holiday.”

Fjell said in the Dec. 2 meeting that she and City Clerk Teresa Studley have been talking about making it easier for employees to take their paid time off. One change they made to the manual was having time off accrue monthly instead of annually. Currently, city employees get five days off in their first 24 months at work, Fjell said. Having it accrue monthly will give them some more time off during their first two years, she said.

It also fits into the change from tracking time off in days to tracking it in hours. Tracking in hours will be easier for the city, especially with the huge difference in schedules between firefighters and other city employees. Because firefighters work 24 hour shifts, one day off would add up to three days off for employees who work 8 hour shifts.

The shift won’t take away their time off, because those currently at the department will be grandfathered in, and new firefighters will get 40 percent more time off to account for them working about 40 percent more hours, Fjell said.

The city will also start enforcing the maximum vacation accrual in 2023, so people aren’t accruing 6 months of vacation time near their retirement, Fjell said. Paid time off will be calculated in hours instead of days to standardize time off across departments that work different shifts, like the police and fire departments.

Other takeaways from the updated employee policies include:

Any employee can report harassment to any supervisor they feel comfortable with. The previous handbook instructed employees to report to their department head or supervisor, or the mayor or city administrator. The city will continue to test employees for marijuana use, even with medical marijuana becoming legal in Missouri. Because the city takes federal money, it’s required to be a drug free workplace, and all marijuana is still prohibited on a federal level, Fjell said. The handbook expands the definitions of “smoke-free workplace” to include vaping, e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco, and prohibits their use in city vehicles as well as city buildings. The new manual creates a progessive disciplinary procedure where employees face stricter punishments each time they violate rules. The discipline starts with an informal discussion of the issue, then progresses to counseling if the issue isn’t resolved, then to a reprimand notice, then suspension and finally termination if the issue still isn’t being corrected.

Contract for project management for Kemper

The council approved contracts with Septagon Construction Management and Porter, Berendzen & Associates to oversee the Kemper rehabilitation projects, to be funded with a temporary 7/8 cent sales tax voters approved in August.

Septagon will serve as the construction managers and Porter, Berendzen will serve as the architects for the planned $6 million renovation and parking lot addition at the former Kemper Military School, which will allow the YMCA to expand and the Boonslick Regional Library to move its Boonville branch into the campus’ Library Learning Center.

The ⅞ cent sales tax will take effect in January, bringing the total sales tax rate up to 9.1 percent for most of Boonville. The city expects that consumers will pay $6 million in the tax before it expires at the end of 2025, and they plan to work on the projects as they get the revenue to pay for them, rather than borrowing money up front.

Carter asked if the city already has contracts with the YMCA and the Library, or if they will before they start building. The city does have a contract with the YMCA for the existing Johnston Field House, but not for the addition in Academic Hall, and it does not have a contract with the library for the Library Learning Center, Beach said.

“I’d like to know exactly what the contract says before we spend a bunch of money,” Carter said.

Fjell said they probably wouldn’t have formal contracts in place before construction starts, but they hope to have a formal memorandum of understanding between the city and the library to the council for approval in January, and could do the same for the YMCA. Beach said they’ve put together ad-hoc committees to track the Kemper projects and the other Second Street improvements, and keep the council updated.

Elections coming up in 2020

Fjell noted that the city’s half-cent Capital Improvements Program sales tax is up for renewal in April, and the council will decide in January whether to approve putting that on the ballot. Boonville voters have to decide whether to renew the sales tax every five years, and they last approved it in 2015.

The filing period for candidates seeking to run for City Council in the April election opened Tuesday and will be open until Jan. 21, 2020 at 5 p.m. The seats that are up for a two year term are First Ward Councilman Steve Young, Second Ward Councilwoman Susan Meadows, Third Ward Councilman Brent Bozarth and Fourth Ward Councilman Henry Hurt.

Anyone interested in running should complete a declaration of candidacy, submitted to City Clerk Teresa Studley at City Hall, with a $25 filing fee. Candidates must have all their city taxes and user fees paid to be eligible to run.

Suddenlink fiber expansion

A representative of Suddenlink met with Fjell to breif the city on their plans to rebuild their infrastructure in town. They have a contractor who will be extending fiber-optic cable to much of their existing service area, Cauthon said.

The city will have to wait until they have the contract done to see exactly where the work will be done. Everything that’s currently underground is either going to be replaced or supplemented by fiber-optic cables, he said.

bcrowley@gatehousemedia.com