City Council Sheds Light On Union Contracts; Accusation Of Verbal Abuse During Closed Session

BROKEN BOW— The Broken Bow City Council took a usually closed session agenda item and opened it up on Friday, December 20 to have transparency, according to Councilman Jacob Holcomb. The collective bargaining negotiations have been underway for the past few months and could finally be winding down as only a few specific details remain.

According to Holcomb, in closed session during the December 10 meeting, the discussion began to veer off-topic and the Mayor had allegedly been verbally abusive to the council and had begun to escalate the situation where Holcomb feared it may get physical.

Mayor Jonathon Berghorst disputed Holcomb’s statement and said that he did not believe he had been verbally abusive, but that he had “meant what I said.”

As the discussion continued, one of the main concerns was balancing the pay to employees and looking out for the taxpayer dollars. According to Holcomb, compared to cities of similar size, Broken Bow is one of the best cities when it comes to employee benefits, especially in insurance coverage. This balance is what the negotiating team, comprised of Holcomb, Mayor Berghorst, City Clerk Stephanie Wright, and City Attorney Jason White, are trying to reach while also attempting to find an agreement with the union.

Another issue that had been the focal point of the last remaining contract items is when an employee clocks in late. Currently, if an employee clocks in late, even if it is one minute late, they are considered tardy which is what the union would like removed. Employees at the moment can clock in up to six minutes before their start time, however, there seemed to be confusion if an employee clocks in early if they are paid for that time.

While there is no deadline for the contract to be completed, any changes in employee compensation would need to be paid out from October 1.

Other approvals during the meeting included appointing Nikki Altig to the Park Board, allowing Arrow Hotel/Bonfire Grill to use fireworks in the square at midnight for New Years, and appointing Dr. Katie Thompson as the Physical Medical Director for EMS. The council also approved raising the legal age to purchase and use tobacco in the city from 18 to 19, but after a recent federal decision, the city may have to change the minimum age to 21 at a later date.

The next Broken Bow City Council meeting will be held on January 14, 2020, at 6 PM at the Broken Bow Public Library.