NILES -- The impact of a decline in property taxes and state revenue-sharing funds continues to play out in the city of Niles in the form of frozen pay for city workers.
As it did two weeks ago with city police officers and firefighters, the Niles City Council on Monday night approved new four-year contracts for several labor groups that don't include pay hikes. The pacts, effective next week, were approved for Niles Utilities Department office workers, waste water treatment plant employees, Public Works Department street and cemetery crews and Utilities Department field crews.
Also like police and firefighters, the labor groups will gradually pick up more of their health insurance costs, with the amount rising to 20 percent by the last year of the contracts. Wage re-openers are possible in 2014, City Administrator Ric Huff said, but they'll occur only if Niles receives additional revenue.
Huff said the contracts feature a one-time $300 signing payment and changes in the method vacation time is calculated. All labor groups, represented by the United Steelworkers Union, have ratified the contracts, Huff said.
Also at the meeting, the council voted to stick with Kaiser Landscaping, the grounds maintenance firm that provides service at Silverbrook Cemetery, instead of accepting the low bid for the work from Simmons Tree and Lawn of Niles. Simmons' bid was $188,000 for the three-year contract, compared to Kaiser's $192,780.
The council opted for the slightly higher bid after Dan Kaiser, of Kaiser Landscaping, mentioned his 16 years of work at the cemetery and pointed to several instances in which his service has exceeded contract specifications. Councilmen Scott Clark and Tim Skalla also vouched for the quality of Kaiser's work.
Staff writer Lou Mumford: