Safety is Priority for Broken Bow City Council

Safety is Priority for Broken Bow City Council
Broken Bow City Council discusses safety committee on Tuesday evening

BROKEN BOW—City officials agree safety is of great concern when it comes to employees working in Broken Bow. During Tuesday’s Broken Bow City Council meeting (click here for agenda), the council discussed the existing safety committee, the need to clearly define safety policies, and ways to enforce them.

City Council President Rod Sonnichsen began the discussion expressing concerns of the rising workers compensation (workman’s comp) expenses through the years. Worker’s comp for City of Broken Bow employees in 2014-2015 totaled $41,251 and increased more than $72,000 by recent fiscal year 2018-2019 in which worker’s comp totaled $113,444.

“I’m just very concerned about the workman’s comp insurance, the premiums that we’ve had to pay. And I think that’s the reason why we have a safety committee but everybody is concerned about safety of our employees because every time an employee gets hurt there is down time and then there is a lot of expense,” Sonnichsen said.

Pam Switzer speaks before the city council regarding the parks department and safety of city employees

Sonnichsen continued by saying that most accidents are preventable and that the current safety committee is under union contract which limits the amount of involvement from council members and city department supervisors. He recommends either modifying the current committee or disbanding and starting over.

“The current procedure lacks enforcement for one thing and without the information coming from the top down, it will never be enforced,” Sonnichsen added.

Mayor Jonathon Berghorst said safety is number one and that the committee is trying to follow the union contract which he said was signed in 2016 by the city council. Sonnichsen said he and three department supervisors were asked to leave a safety committee meeting earlier this month due to the wording in the contract limiting representation from the city and other departments.

Mayor Berghorst said the committee meetings are not public but regular city-wide safety meetings are mandatory for city employees. Councilman Jacob Holcomb said it may be time to focus on something outside of the union contract while keeping safety and taxpayer dollars as the priorities.

“We’re dealing with the taxpayer dollar so at the end of the day we all need to come together and improve on what we’re doing to prevent this from happening. Because priority number one–outside of that increasing premium–is the safety of our employees,” Holcomb said.

Councilman Chris Myers said he also believes safety is everybody’s goal but does not want safety to be used as an excuse for laziness.

“Safety cannot be an excuse for laziness,” Myers continued. “With this forward moving on safety, you got to have accountability in what happens and an investigation process.”

City Treasurer Nancee Coufal told the council that aside from the existing accident form that is sent to insurance following a safety situation, there is no process to put policies in place or policies to enforce them. She said there is nothing city officials can do until process and policies are put into place.

No action was taken.

The safety discussion was followed by conversations of adding another staff member to the parks department, whether that be a park foreman or a regular parks employee. Parks Superintendent Darren Marten said a foreman position has been budgeted for but Holcomb said that although there is a need to fill the shortage of labor in the parks department, the city should try to be as efficient as possible when hiring.

No action was taken.

Broken Bow TeamMates chapter president Betsy Smith spoke before the city council and the route was approved for a 5K run/walk to be held at 9 a.m. on October 12 by TeamMates and HOSA. Permission was granted for alcohol to be served at the library during a One Box Party on November 1.

Dawn West presented the annual housing authority report and the council approved the request for the waiver of PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) funds in the amount of $24,445.01 to be used for future projects. Currently, the Housing Authority oversees 85 rental units in Broken Bow as well as units in Ansley. West thanked the commissioners and staff who provide clean, safe, and affordable housing to the community of Broken Bow.

The interlocal agreement with the Broken Bow Township was approved for shared services and Resolution 2019-24 KENO Funds was also approved in which KENO funds were used for materials purchased for the Melham picnic shelter in the amount of $24,705.78. (Coufal told the council that the bills have already been approved but the resolution allows her to access the KENO funds as they are kept separate from the general fund.)

The City Council moved to enter into executive session at 7:08 p.m. The next City Council meeting will be on Tuesday, October 8 at 6 p.m. at the Broken Bow Public Library.