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Keokuk, Unions to Resume Talks

Jun 10, 2013

The city of Keokuk and its union employees will return to the negotiating table on Tuesday, June 18.

Keokuk City Council

This new round of talks is quite unexpected, given the fact that the two sides had reached agreements on new contracts or contract extensions for employees in the police and fire departments, the general unit and at the wastewater treatment plant.

Those agreements, which were ratified by the union members, were rejected by the full city council.

Those who voted against the contracts took issue with the city paying a fee associated with the federal health care law in exchange for union employees receiving smaller wage increases.

Mayor Tom Marion hopes the two sides can avoid arbitration, since mediation was needed to reach a consensus on the previous contract offers.

He says arbitration could cost the city $10,000 - $15,000, given the cost of a labor attorney and 1/2 of the cost of the arbitrator.

Marion does not know if the city's negotiating team will meet before Tuesday, June 18.  Two members of that team, Aldermen Ron Payne and John Helenthal, voted against the contracts they helped put together.

Two of the four contracts expire on June 30.

John W. Sammons Construction Company has less than two weeks to complete a project that was supposed to be finished last fall.

The city hired the firm, last summer, to install roughly 30 manholes throughout the city for nearly $580,000.

The original completion date of August 31, 2012 was eventually extended to Oct. 1, 2012.

As of June 6, 2013, there was still asphalt and concrete work to do.

Mayor Tom Marion had recommended the city council rescind the contract to avoid setting a precedent for other city contracts.

The panel went against the recommendation, though, and offered the company the two weeks.

Several aldermen said it would take longer than that to seek new bids for finish the work.

A representative of John W. Sammons Construction Company says several factors led to the delay.  He told the city council that two weeks would be enough time to complete the work.

The company has already accumulated more than $33,000 in late fees.