BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – Representatives of a committee assembled to put together a proposal to bump the minimum wage in Lee County were a bit upset with an unexpected delay Tuesday.
At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Lee County Board of Supervisors, committee members were on hand to ask why an ordinance to move the minimum wage in Lee County to $8.20 wasn’t being considered and several committee members pushed supervisors Ron Fedler and Rick Larkin on why there was a hold up on the ordinance.
Mike Bennett, a spokesperson for the committee said he was upset that a vote didn’t come out of today’s meeting because an ordinance had been created, reviewed by County Attorney Ross Braden and submitted for approval.
Fedler and Larkin both said during the regular session that they were waiting on a report back from the committee and never got one. Larkin, as chairman of the supervisors, pulled the issue from the agenda because he felt he didn’t have enough information.
“In August last year, when we brought this in front of the supervisors we were told we would put together a committee consisting of two people from each supervisor’s district and we would put together a proposal and we would bring that proposal back and the board of supervisors would vote on it. I’d like to know why that has changed,” Bennett said.
“Is that because of the bill in front of the house? It’s been told to me that a supervisor said we’re not doing anything with that until the state acts on the bill and then we don’t have to worry about raising the minimum wage.”
House File 295 is currently working through committees in the Iowa House of Representatives and would remove city and county authority to adjust minimum wages in the state. An amendment was added Monday by Rep. Brian Meyer (D-Polk County) that would set the minimum wage at $8.75 July 1, then move it to $9.75 on Jan. 1, 2018, and $10.75 on Jan. 1, 2019. Meyer’s amendment also stipulates an annual percentage increase equal to the cost of living increase formula used in Social Security benefit tabulations. Meyer also added an amendment removing all superfluous language relating to consumer packaging that is part of the current bill in debate.
Larkin said it was his expectation that the committee would bring in people from the community to speak on the issue and there would be good discussion on it, but all he saw was an ordinance on the agenda so he pulled it off the agenda.
Bennett said it was his understanding that that’s what the committee was tasked with bringing back to the board.
Former board chair Ron Fedler said he formed the commission as chair and his expectation was for the committee to report back to the board, not just create an ordinance.
“The way I remember, that committee was to report back to the board and there’s been no report back until today. The motion and the committee was formed to report back to the board,” he said.
“We both know, Mr. Fedler, that’s not the way it went down,” he said.
Fedler said he’s going off his recollection of how the committee was formed.
“No, I don’t know that. I appointed two committee members to report back to the board. I also asked them to report back by January but they were having trouble getting committee members and we’ve had no report until this meeting.”
Supervisor Gary Folluo said he felt the committee did their jobs in recommending the ordinance.
“Did the committee members recommend the ordinance? Then why isn’t it on the agenda,” Folluo said. “The ordinance is a recommendation. It has to be read three times. Once it’s out there you’ll have your discussion.”
Supervisor Don Hunold, who sat on the committee with Supervisor Matt Pflug said the blame could be laid at his feet.
“I pretty much took the bull by the horns and I should have contacted you guys. It’s kind of my fault I got ahead of the horse here a little bit and I should have gotten information to you so you can put the blame right here,” he said.
But Pflug said bringing the ordinance to the board doesn’t create that big of a problem.
“If it’s brought to the board you vote either up or down. So you’re saying you don’t have any idea what happened in those committees?”
After a lengthy discussion in the workshop following the regular session, the board decided to put the ordinance on the agenda for next week. Procedures would typically require three readings of the ordinance before passage, but boards can waive the additional readings by a majority vote.
“We know that $8.20 is not going to make somebody enough money to live on, but we have to recognize people have not gotten a raise in a long time,” said Kathy Gabel, a committee member from Keokuk.
“As a group we need to set a precedent in Lee County that we appreciate our workers and if we can raise the bar even in pennies then we are setting a standard for people to expect a higher standard of living in our community and we want that for the people of Lee County.
In other action,
- the board approved the 2017-2018 budget. Chair Rick Larkin said he was proud of the way the county staff worked together to get the budget passed even though the county is showing a $1.5 million deficit. The deficit will reduce the county’s fund balance to just over $10 million at the end of the fiscal year. Pflug also said that the county is, and always has been, conducting itself in a fiscal fashion and with the Health department building referendum approaching May 2, he hopes voters sees that conduct.
- the board approved a Class C Beer Permit for Tri-State Outdoor Products.
- the board approved a liquor license for Archies 2 in Wever.
- the board approved a contract for security services provided by Lee County Sheriff’s Department for the Iowa Fertilizer Company. The contract would reimburse the county for deputies’ time on the facility outside of normal call duties, according to County Attorney Ross Braden. This work would be on a voluntary basis for the deputies, according to the discussion.
- the board approved a resolution to set a public hearing to enter into an installment agreement with WatchGuard Video for body and dashboard cameras for the sheriff’s department.