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Council to consider rate hikes, domestic partner coverage

Friday, August 12, 2011

McCOOK, Nebraska -- City staff will recommend the McCook City Council approve an increase to both water and sewer rates, as a result of the annual cash flow analysis prepared by Public Financial Management. The rate increases are projected to amount to an average of $14 per year on residential sewer bills and an average $13 per year on residential water bills, effective Oct. 1, 2011.

The increase is projected to be at 3 percent for water rates and 5 percent for sewer rates and will be considered during Monday's semi-monthly meeting at Memorial Auditorium.

The annual water cash flow analysis shows a 9.14 percent increase in water sold for 2009-10 and year-to-date 2011 consumption at a five percent increase over that, which directly effects budgeted revenues, however the rate increase recommendation is based on a conservative projection of fiscal year 2010-11 ending with an increase in usage of only 3.7 percent and remaining stable at that usage for future years.

The sewer rate increase is based on future operating expenses increasing at six percent annually, with $14,000 of the $14,300 estimated 2010-11 expense increase coming from increases in employee payroll expenses. The desire of city staff to maintain an ending cash balance at 45 percent of operating and maintenance expenses is also affecting the need for a rate increase, with the industry norm between 30-50 percent, according to the cashflow analysis.

Council members will consider the rate increases as well as a proposal from Councilman Aaron Kircher to modify the city employee health plan to cover unmarried domestic partners of employees. Eligibility requirements for Kircher's domestic partner proposal include that the employee and their partner be unmarried; in a committed relationship continuously for at least one year and intend to continue the committed relationship indefinitely; not be involved in a committed relationship with any other person; have maintained a common residence for at least one year; are not blood relatives; and agree to provide proof of financial interdependence to the city in the form of joint checking accounts, utility bills, etc ...

Kircher's proposal would also require the employee to notify the city if the relationship has ended within 30 days and file the appropriate documentation for the termination of a committed relationship.

The ordinance would require a signed, notarized affidavit from the employee, their partner and two witnesses and sets a $1,000 fine for providing false information.

According to the website www.findlaw.com, in Nebraska neither the state nor any municipality in the state provides specific rights to domestic partners.

City staff has also recommended approval of an ordinance that would donate a city owned lot to the McCook Economic Development Corporation. The lot is located at the corner of East Second Street and C Street and MEDC intends to develop the lot with an existing home located at 516 Norris Avenue, that was previously donated to them by Red Willow County. After relocating the home to its new lot, MEDC will make upgrades to it that include making it handicap accessible, as well as more energy efficient and safer. Housing Development Director Mary Kircher told council members in April that it would be part of their Purchase Rehab Resell program and targeted for low to moderate income home buyers.

The fiscal year 2011-12 annual budget will be presented for its second of three required readings for approval. The employee classification pay plan will also be presented for its first of three required readings for approval. The pay plan features a two percent cost of living increase for all city employees, in addition to merit and longevity increases. Police and fire personnel are not included in the plan, as they are negotiated separately through their respective unions.

Other items on the consent and regular agenda:

* Council members are scheduled to enter executive session pertaining to city manager applicants, as well as a strategy session with respect to collective bargaining with the police department's labor union.

* A grant offer from the Federal Aviation Administration will be considered for acceptance. The $20,615 grant is to cover reimbursement of expenses incurred by the city during the acquisition of avigational easements at McCook Ben Nelson Regional Airport, as part of the installation of the new wildlife fence. An easement from Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railroad is still being sought and city staff has indicated an additional grant offer will be made once that is completed.

City staff is also seeking advance approval for a second grant pertaining to the wildlife fence project, hoping to avoid future delays in the construction of the fence.

* The Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program for the McCook airport will be presented for approval. According to the meeting agenda, the program ensures that disadvantaged business enterprises have an equal opportunity to receive and participate in Department of Transportation assisted contracts.

* City staff has recommended offering Interstate Irrigation a $104,455 contract for water system improvements on East C Street, relocation of the sanitary sewer main for the new municipal facility and the addition of a sanitary sewer bypass line at Kelley Park.

* A resolution that will adopt changes to the McCook Firefighters Pension Plan and Trust and the McCook Police Retirement Plan will be considered for approval.

* The application for intercity bus assistance from Dashabout Shuttle will be considered for approval. The $96,023 service is funded through state and federal assistance and the city is used as a pass through for the funds.

* The request for proposals for engineering consulting services, for a East Seventh Street and Seminole project from East H Street to Park Avenue, will be considered for approval. The appointment of public works director Kyle Potthoff, city clerk Lea Ann Doak, public works supervisor Dob Neuhaus, in addition to one or two city council members, to the selection board for engineering consulting services for the project will also be considered.

* The McCook Area Chamber of Commerce has requested a special liquor license for the Heritage Days mixer at McCook National Bank on Sept. 21, 2011. The chamber has also requested use of Norris Park for their arts and crafts show, use of the bandshell and the closing of parts of Norris Avenue, the 700 block of East First Street and the 100 block of West G Street, during the Sept. 24-25 Heritage Days event.

* Rock N Horse lounge has requested a special liquor license for the Farm and Ranch Expo at Kiplinger Arena in November.

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I hope that I'm misreading or misunderstanding Councilman Kircher's proposal. Is he really proposing that the city insure someone with a live in boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other, etc.? If this is truly the case, I'm shocked! The cost of insurance is going through the roof and costing local governments and employees more and more every day. In reading all of the council happenings, it seems that Mr. Kircher is usually on the ultra-conservative side with spending. Does he, or any McCook residents understand what the potential cost of this proposal is? Please go to www.corporateresourcecouncil.org/white_p... and read what the potential costs of this are. I'm not a bigot and I have friends who are gay. I know from my work as a nurse that one of the most expensive groups of individuals to provide healthcare to is the gay community, probably because of the risks involved with those that live an unprotected lifestyle. Please McCook, think this one over, the costs could break you!

-- Posted by McCook Supporter on Sat, Aug 13, 2011, at 6:48 PM

I agree McCook Supporter! Hopefully that gets shot down rather quickly! I think it'd be absurd for a city employee to think they would be entitled to benefits for his/her live in girlfriend/boyfriend. This is asinine Mr. Kircher! Maybe too many after hour bar parties at your house have fogged your thinking.

-- Posted by blueCollarWorker on Sun, Aug 14, 2011, at 7:42 PM

You cannot call those participating as domestic partners a committed relationship. You are a domestic partner because you do not want a committed relationship. That is precisely why God instructed us to avoid such relationships. They are not committed, they are statistically not viable even after marriage.

Why should governing bodies support and subsidize failure? Very bad idea councilman Kircher.

-- Posted by Chunky Peanut Butter on Sun, Aug 14, 2011, at 10:40 PM

How is the failure rate of marriage by the way? When did it come back from the longstanding 50% failure rate? Sounds like benefits for marriage is subsidizing failure too.

-- Posted by hometown1 on Mon, Aug 15, 2011, at 2:02 PM

A lack of morals, & commitment in any type of relationship shouldn't be greeted with perks and benefits. Failure rates for marriages are specifically related to lack of effort, and in this day and age, lack of effort seems to be the norm.

With that opinion having been stated, I'm pleased to see the City Council shut that one down.

-- Posted by Nick Mercy on Wed, Aug 17, 2011, at 12:34 AM

Does that mean that coverage to a married partner should be denied as soon as they file for divorce? I mean you said, "A lack of morals, & commitment in any type of relationship shouldn't be greeted with perks and benefits." I assume "any type of relationship" means ANY type of relationship. So you think government should assess marriages to make sure they're both being "moral" and "committed". The government could even tell the couple if they're not putting enough effort into their marriage. Should they deny coverage if one of them was unfaithful too? What's your plan on enforcing this brilliant policy by the way?

-- Posted by hometown1 on Wed, Aug 17, 2011, at 4:00 PM

If the cost is too high as domestic partners, what would happened if they all got married? Wouldn't the cost be the same.

-- Posted by npwinder on Wed, Aug 17, 2011, at 8:25 PM

Hometown, if a married couple get divorced, the covered employee remains covered as well as the children of that covered employee.... This is contingent of course on custody settlements through the courts. The estranged party, however is then covered ONLY for a certain grandfathered time period OR, the employee must pay the full premium for the ex-spouse and the insurance providing employer is no longer obligated to share costs of the estranged spouse.

This would be under a documented relationship where social security numbers are coupled and a method of tracking a continued relationship is available.

Non married partners could break up, but without commingled personal I'd numbers such as social security numbers, the would be no way discontinuing coverage to the ex-spouse. If the covered employee doesn't think to say anything to his employer, the employer will continue to pay. In this case, the money spent on a would be ex-spouse comes out of the tax payer's pocket.

I'm not making the rules, but I do agree with them. If lack of commitment of any relationship is observed, resulting in divorce, WHY would anyone expect an employer to flip the bill?

-- Posted by Nick Mercy on Thu, Aug 18, 2011, at 12:58 AM


Actually, there was a way to cancel coverage. The employee would have to notify the city in writing if there was a "break up" within 30 days of it happening and if they did not, the city could fine them $1,000 and news travels fast in a small, small town.

Regardless, years from now this will be but one more thing people look back on with shock that it was even opposed. It's far from being ahead of it's time since so many employers from certain federal agencies, cities, businesses, colleges and religious organizations already offer it, it's just ahead of McCook's time. We'll catch up in time, of that, there is no doubt.

-- Posted by McCook1 on Thu, Aug 18, 2011, at 4:45 PM

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