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Fulton council approves spending for sewer upgrades

Fire union, city come to pay agreement December 17, 2014 at 6:00 a.m. | Updated December 17, 2014 at 6:00 a.m.

Anticipated improvements to the city of Fulton's sewer system moved forward at Tuesday night's city council meeting with the approval of two resolutions granting funding for the manhole and sewer lining projects.

The Fulton City Council accepted the bid of $542,930 from low-bidder Utility Solutions, Inc. - a Kansas City, Kansas based company- for the 2014 Sewer Manhole Rehabilitation Project. Manholes throughout the city will receive improvements - about 400 to be sealed and about 45 to be raised, according to City Engineer Greg Hayes.

Hayes said he's hoping the manhole improvements will result in a 25 percent reduction of influx and infiltration to the city's wastewater treatment facility. On average, about 2 million gallons per day flows through the wastewater plant, according to Hayes. An abundance of water from heavy rains and melting snow cause that figure to jump to 8 million.

The council also gave the OK for the city to spend more than $136,000 to replace the sewer line at Ninth and Grand streets, going north toward the Fulton Middle School football field. Hayes said there could be certain times construction may conflict with school bus pickups, but he added that the city will work closely with the district to ensure safe routes.

Firefighters will receive five percent pay increase

The Fulton Professional Firefighters Union and the city of Fulton have reached an agreement for firefighter pay after three meetings of negotiations - totaling about 8 hours, according to City Administrator Bill Johnson. Members in the union will receive the five percent pay increase budgeted for 2015 like all other city employees - contingent on an evaluation conducted by Fire Chief Dean Buffington. Included in the document is the agreement for the union and city to meet twice a month to continue negotiating an entirely new contract between the two entities, outlining pay and changes to the fire department's policies and procedures.

"So far, I think things are going pretty smooth," Union President Merit McLeod said.

The city has plans to conduct a salary survey - comparing the pay of all city employees to those of other cities - in preparation for the 2016 budget. McLeod previously told the Fulton Sun that he would like to see pay for Fulton firefighters to be more similar to comparable agencies across Missouri.

With that salary survey, McLeod said he's hoping Fulton firefighters will potentially see an even higher percentage pay increase in the 2016 budget.

"Our hope is with that being done, we'll be able to be comparable to (other fire departments)," McLeod said to the council.

The 2015 budget states that employees not reaching a $10 per hour pay rate with the five percent raise will automatically be bumped to $10 per hour. This won't be the case with the firefighters, Johnson said, because it's not a part of their deal.

The minimum pay for a probationary firefighter is $8.20 per hour and the maximum is $12.30. After the probationary period, the minimum rate increases to $8.65 per hour minimum and $12.85 per hour maximum, according the the current union-city contract that was drafted in 2004.

Longtime police officer retires

Fulton Police Chief Steve Myers, the council and city leaders celebrated the retirement of Lyla Robbins from the Fulton Police Department. Robbins has worked for the department for 31 years, coming in as a communications officer in 1980. She held various positions, moving up the ranks over her tenure.

Her positions included sergeant (starting in 1992), chief investigator (starting in 1998) and supervisor of training (starting in 2003). Mayor LeRoy Benton called Robbins a "dedicated" officer before awarding her a plaque with the city of Fulton seal. Since her recent retirement, Robbins said she's been working for the Callaway County court system and has been "having a blast."

One perk of retirement, she said, is being off on the holidays. Robbins described her time with the Fulton Police Department as "absolutely wonderful."

"Thank you all very much. It's been an honor working with the city," Robbins said at the council meeting.

Department supervisors update city projects, council approves maintaining drug-task officer

Progress on the city's new Garrett Animal Shelter, warehouse facility and smart-grid system continue.

Planning and Protective Services Director Les Hudson said painting has started in the new animal shelter and lights have been hung in the animal room. He's planning on all the sheet rock to be hung by the end of the week, and by next week the heating system will be in place.

"Hopefully, by February we'll be really, really close to getting done," he said.

Hayes said the more than $6 million-dollar warehouse facility project is seeing headway with ground work. The company hired for the project - Curtiss, Manes and Schulte, Inc. from Eldon - is finishing the foundation on the administrative building and pouring slabs for the solid waste and utility buildings. The city will meet the third Thursday of each month with Curtiss, Manes and Schulte for updates on the project's progression.

Water meters are in for the city's smart-grid system and are to be installed in the near future, according to Johnson. The smart-grid system will eventually allow consumers to track their utility usage digitally.

He added that the city still needs to select the desired brand for the gas meters. Utilities Superintendent Darrell Dunlap previously told the Fulton Sun that he hopes to release the electric system - which is already in place - sometime in January.

Changes to a grant the Fulton Police Department utilized has caused 52 percent of the salary funding for a drug-task officer to be cut. The Department of Public Safety awarded the grant to Fulton Police for the officer who was responsible for 15-18 drug-related search warrants this year, according to Chief Myers. The grant expired in June, but Fulton police were not made aware of the grant changes.

Jerry Sorte, assistant director of administration, included $50,000 of discretionary funds for the council in the 2015 budget, and the council approved the $22,263 in salary spending to maintain the officer. Unhappy about the lack of communication from the Department of Public Safety, the council noted they will be contacting local legislators on the issue.

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