The Hays City Commission at Thursday’s work session placed a vote for whether to opt out of the Public Employer-Employee Relations Act on next week’s agenda. If a majority of city commissioners vote to opt out, it effectively would end the city’s negotiations with its three employee labor unions.
There was little discussion Thursday among commissioners. Dozens of city employees and labor union representatives attended and were invited to address commissioners, though public comment usually is not taken during work sessions.
“The only thing that I would say is we all came tonight and we’re interested to hear your guys’ thoughts,” said Esau Freeman, business representative of local Service Employees International Union Local 513. “At some point (going) forward, if Commissioner Jones is available, we’d be interested in listening to what you guys have to say. That’s really where we are with this.”
The issue was brought forth by commissioner Lance Jones, who has spoken in favor of voting to opt out. Jones was unable to attend Thursday’s work session due to illness. While PEERA is optional for local governments, the city has “opted in” since 1972 — and is one of only 12 cities in Kansas that currently does so.
Commissioners gave consensus to move the issue forward to a vote next week, with little discussion.
“To me it sounds like we want to move it forward,” Mayor Shaun Musil said. “My view of this hasn’t changed. I spoke loud and clear about my feelings last time, so I don’t need to say anything more about it then unless you guys have any more you want to talk about.”
Musil spoke strongly in favor of continuing the labor union negotiations in late November. He previously said he thinks the discussion of ending labor union negotiations comes as a “sucker punch” to city employees.
In other business, the commission:
• Heard an update regarding upgrades to Ellis County radio communications and dispatch technology for emergency response.
• Discussed a bid to repair golf cart paths on the back nine holes at Fort Hays Municipal Golf Course. The cost would be $100,000.
• Heard a request to annex blocks one, two and five of the proposed Ottley Addition just behind Walmart on north Vine. City staff are recommending annexation.
• Discussed a resolution to be voted on next week regarding the city’s updated 2017 boundaries.