Agreement to maintain fire personnel, wheel tax approved at City Council meeting Tuesday night | Local News

The Grand Island Fire Department will maintain two full-time equivalents (FTEs) following a negotiation between IAFF Local 647 and the city on a new, two-year-contract.

After meeting in closed session, the Grand Island City Council finalized a deal with the fire union on the new contract.

In a Facebook statement released after the meeting, Mayor Jeremy Jensen said the parameters of the contract allows the city to add back two full-time equivalents (FTEs) that had previously been eliminated.

The City Council voted 8-2 last week, with Chuck Haase and Jeremy Jones voting no, to eliminate two fire personnel, two police officer positions and two community-service officer (CSO) positions.

“I would like to extend my gratitude to our employees that will sacrifice their own wages and other contract enhancements to maintain existing staffing levels,” Jensen said. “I also would like to thank IAFF Local 647 President Phil Thomas for his leadership and his ability to communicate contract discussions to his members and rapidly return a formalized acceptance for us to take it to the City Council for discussion.”

Jensen added the negotiation process between the city and IAFF Local 647 will serve as an example of how collective bargaining units and administrative teams should work together to solve the city’s long-term budget goals.

A phone call to Thomas late Tuesday night for comment was not immediately returned.

Earlier in the meeting, the City Council voted 8-2, with Councilmen Haase and Roger Steele voting no, to approve wheel tax fees on vehicles within the city of Grand Island.

The fees are $12.50 for motorcycles, $22.50 for passenger vehicles and $52.50 for large commercial vehicles. The wheel tax is expected to generate $1.5 million for the city. The wheel tax fees will go into affect on Nov. 1.

Councilman Jeremy Jones said the wheel tax fees are needed because voters rejected a half-cent sales tax increase in 2016.

“I support this because we need it because of that,” he said. “If the half-cent sales tax would have passed, then we wouldn’t need this.”

Prior to the vote, the City Council voted 7-3, with Councilmen Vaughn Minton, Roger Steele and Mike Paulick voting no, to amend the language of the ordinance to have a sunset date of Sept. 30, 2019, which would allow the wheel tax to come before the City…

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