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Florence Seeks to Be More Competitive for Public Employees

The City of Florence passed an ordinance amending other ordinances relating to personnel policies, job descriptions, and pay plans. The ordinance specifies nine steps to improve conditions at the city.  
These are:
1) to establish an 8.4 percent cost of living allowance across the board beginning January 1.
2) to give at least a 2 percent cost of living allowance to employees as of July 1, 2017, unless the CPI is higher, then the raise will be negotiated.
3) all Paramedics will be hired in and allowed to start at step 2 of the Captain's pay scale.
4) to increase the number of Firefighter/EMT and paramedics from 33 to 36.
5) to allow departments up to two positions extra if a person applies who is exceptionally qualified, and equal the number back to normal by atrition.
6) to change the title of Firefighter/EMS Commander to Battalion Chief.
7) to raise the tuition reimbursement from $1,800 to $2,500.
8) to initiate a 401K match up to 3 percent for people with the tier 3 Kentucky retirement plan.
9) to allow steps in the pay plan increasing from 1.5 percent to 2 percent for the Administrative Clerk and the Administrative Secretary.
"We did an analysis of the overall benefit of the changes," said Mayor Diane Whalen. "We have always been able to get and retain the best and the brightest, but after the 2008 recession we began to fall behind. The cities across the river did a better job of keeping up. So we had our finance director take a look and try to find out where we got skewed, where did we miss."
The ordinance passed unanimously.
Council also voted to pass an ordinance relating to the adoption and approval of text amendments to the Boone County zoning regulations as applicable to the city to add permitting requirements and related definitions for small cellular poles. Councilwoman Dr. Julie Metzger-Aubuchon explained that they were smaller poles, 35 feet tall, and with equipment no taller than 41 feet. These are meant to boost reception, especially around places that are high traffic areas, such as schools and malls. City administrator Richard Lunnemann told council later that there is a companion ordinance dealing with limiting the poles to companies that have franchises, but it is not ready for reading yet.
Another ordinance that had a first reading annexes an 8.1853 acre tract of land located east of Achates Avenue, west of Preakness Drive and north of Utterback Road (Rosetta Drive) adjacent to the city limits. The land belongs to Flomed, LLC, and apparently the land was annexed back in the 1970's, but was de-annexed later, and now the company wants to annex the land again so they can possibly develop the site into a 119-unit senior housing development.
Council approved a resolution dealing with a traffic agreement between the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Transportation Cabinet, the Department of Highways, and the City of Florence. The agreement is for Florence to maintain about 800 feet of sidewalk and a bike trail on the part of Mt. Zion Road which is in Florence.
Joe Hibbett, vice principal of the Boone County Alternative School's Imagineering Academy, gave a report about the progress of the schools. He told council that suspensions went from 198 in the 2012 school year, down to 70 in the next year, and to 0 last year. Hibbett attributes the improvement to the project-based learning which re-engages the students and allows them to feel and give compassion. He told about how the students made 12 whimsical playhouses, and then when they heard about a terminally ill child in Michigan, they made a two story playhouse for her and found a way to transport it to Michigan. The students are planning a Christmas festival on December 15 at 99 Center Street. Hibbett said they plan to have at least 100 graduate this year, after only 12 graduated two years ago, and 68 graduated last year. Hibbett told council that alternative school doesn't have to be a stereotypical punishment.
"It is a place, kind of like the Island of Misfit toys," said Mayor Whalen. "It is so nice to hear of successes there. Obviously you are finding a path for these students to be successful."
Serenity Carrol from Duke energy came to explain why the city should change the 1300 lights in the city to Roadway LED lights, for an ultimate savings of $1,000 a month. The upfront cost on the lights would be $738,000, but after 5 1/2 years the city's bill would go from $13,000 a month to $3,700 a month.
"I think it's a no-brainer," said Councilman Mel Carroll. "I am supportive of this move."
Councilman J. Kelly Huff had several questions about how the lights work, and how bright they are. After discussion, council gave the go-ahead for Carrol to start the work to begin the project, which could take a year or more.
Lana Kay Brueggen, who lives on Center Street, came to ask council about possibly having a new library on the old Florence Nursery property. She said she has talked to the library board about it and while they listened politely they seemed to have no interest in improving the Florence branch of the library. She asked council if they had any suggestions as to how to get anyone to listen, and Mayor Whalen told her to go to the Boone County Fiscal Court, and go ahead with petitions, and said the city will write another letter asking for help for the oldest library in the county. Whalen said the library isn't listening to the city, either.
"It doesn't have to be state of the art," Brueggen said. "But the computers are at least 40 years old and it is dark and small."
"We deserve state of the art," said Metzger-Aubuchon.
Whalen announced that on Saturday, December 3 there will be a Holiday Heroes event at noon to 3 p.m. St. Elizabeth Hospital in Florence to collect toys for the Steinford Toy Foundation. Also, on December 6, there will be the annual Florence tree lighting event at the government center beginning at 6 p.m.
There is a special council meeting on December 6, beginning at 7 p.m.
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor