By Eric X. Viccaro
City of Ste. Genevieve elected leaders and officials tended to a matter of housekeeping during last Thursday’s regular board of aldermen meeting.
Police chief Eric Bennett asked city administrator Happy Welch to reconsider the performance review period for the next four years while the 40 percent health insurance premium increase for employees is implemented.
It was agreed not to create a negative impact for employees due to the expense of the premiums — and not offsetting that with a potential performance raise.
During a recent health committee meeting, Ward 2 Alderman Bob Donovan didn’t want to create such a negative impact for employees, as was stated in a letter from Welch to the board in a “new business” item in the Sept. 24 regular meeting agenda.
Currently, the city offers two different insurance plans — one considered “base” and one called “buy up.”
Welch said insurance premiums have been paid in full with the base plan, while employees are responsible for part of the coverage with the “buy up” option.
Coming into the meeting, aldermen had four recommendations to choose from.
The first would be to pass an ordinance in Section 206 of the personnel policy that performance reviews would revert back to the original due date of June 30.
A second option would be to continue with performance reviews during the new scheduled time — in January and February — but make the start dates for a raise retroactive to Oct. 1, 2020.
Employees would have received back pay for what they score on the future review, and they will have three to five months of insurance without the merit raise.
The third option was to suspend taking out 10 percent on the health insurance premium until the performance reviews are completed in early 2021.
The fourth option was to “do nothing and move forward as adopted,” as Welch wrote in the memorandum.
In the end, the board of aldermen selected the third option, which passed by a unanimous 7-0 vote. Ward 1 Alderman Gary Smith was absent from the proceedings.
“We’re going to hold off (on taking the health insurance premium) until the next round of performance reviews are done,” Welch said.
The city of Ste. Genevieve is changing the time of year when performance reviews occur – from summer to winter. Pay raises from now will be merit based, with the opportunity for an employee to receive “up to” 50 cents more per hour.
These pay raises are calculated from the beginning of the fiscal year, which begins later this week.
City employees’ base pay has been increased to $12 per hour, and $13 per hour upon successful completion for receiving a CDL license.
During discussions, Ward 1 Alderwoman Susie Johnson stated performance reviews shouldn’t take longer than one month to complete.
During the next four years, a 40 percent health insurance premium will be gradually implemented.
• The city may soon issue a proclamation regarding the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, Welch said.
“I would like to see something a little more official from the city to follow the recommendations,” Johnson said during COVID-19 discussions, which is now a regular feature on every board agenda.
A proclamation could be read at either one of the October regular sessions.
“We can do that,” Ste. Genevieve Mayor Paul Hassler said.
The proclamation won’t necessarily mean a mask mandate in Ste. Genevieve.
However, masks will be strongly recommended along with following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on social distancing and hand washing.
The city ultimately takes direction on COVID-19 matters from the Ste. Genevieve County Health Department, which is currently has its leadership in limbo.
The city had just one participant in the Zoom teleconference, historian Robert Mueller. There were no public comments on COVID-19, either.
On Sept. 25, the county health department reported (on its Facebook page) three new confirmed cases, eight total probable cases and 16 active ones.
A probable case is not a lab-confirmed case, the department said. A probable case would be direct contact to a positive that’s asymptomatic, but doesn’t receive testing for lab confirmation. There have been more than 4,000 negative tests in the county.