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Brookings resident Teresa Lawson outlines her concerns about labor contract negotiations during the July 22 Brookings City Council meeting.

The Brookings City Council now has ratified two employee contracts, ending months of negotiations with the Brookings Police Association, and Teamsters Local Union 223.

In addition, the council has adjusted the city’s management compensation plan.

The action followed a detailed summary of changes to the collective-bargaining agreements by Brookings City Manager Janell Howard during the regular city council meeting July 22.

During the meeting, former city mayoral candidate Teresa Lawson of Brookings continued her opposition to the labor negotiations, first outlined in a council session in February 2018.

Lawson said the pay increases for police, streets, parks and administration would amount to $800,000 over the next three years.

But during the council discussion following Howard’s summary, members pointed out they had gone through a lengthy labor negotiation process to reach fair and equitable agreements.

“We are fully aware of what the costs are,” Councilor Ron Hedenskog said. “The public may not understand how the negotiation process works. These are all issues that we have discussed in executive session.”

Howard said the minimum pay raise for the police association members is 8.5 percent over three years.

“We have been negotiating for over six months with the police and teamster unions,” Howard told The Pilot following the council meeting. “We want to keep up with the market so that we don’t have to catch up.

“We want to be competitive and we want to retain employees. In Oregon, cities pay by population, so it’s hard for small cities like Brookings to be competitive with the larger cities.”

Both the teamster union and police association already have ratified the contacts. The police association represents 11 officers and six dispatchers at the Brookings Police Department.

Monarch Butterflies

In other business during the July 22 meeting, the city council awarded $1,500 from the Transit Occupancy Tax Fund to the Brookings Oregon Monarch Advocates in support the second-annual “Monarch Festival,” and as a way to help promote Brookings tourism in general.

The celebration of the Monarch butterfly’s migration through Brookings is scheduled for Sept. 7.

Events planned include education about Monarch conservation, pollinator-friendly gardening, crafts for children, a science area, live butterflies for release, and promotion of Brookings as the first Monarch City USA in Oregon.

Organizers said they would sustain the celebration with contributions from individuals, businesses and government agencies. And plants will be sold to raise funds for the 2020 festival.

In 2018, the first year of the event, coordinators estimated that 500 to 700 people attended, with about 28 percent from outside Curry County.

The organizers said that to promote the 2019 festival, they plan media marketing events through television, radio, public print-service announcements and social media, as well as outreach to butterfly advocates in Southern Oregon and Northern California.

Funding for the festival had been recommended earlier by the Brookings Tourism Promotion Advisory Committee.

Crosswalks

The city council also authorized staff to pursue a request through the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) for pedestrian safety enhancements to the crosswalk on Chetco Avenue at the Redwood Theater.

Councilor John McKinney had asked the council earlier this year to review a plan to install crosswalk in-pavement warming lights, but such a system is not allowed on Oregon highways such as U.S. Highway 101, otherwise known as Chetco Avenue.

McKinney then suggested the city review pedestrian hybrid beacons, a special type of beacon used to warn and control traffic at an unsignalized location to help pedestrians cross the highway.

The cost of such a system starts at $100,000 and would require meeting traffic signals warrants and/or specific pedestrian columns. It would require specific site requirements similar to a mid-block, according to ODOT.

The state transportation agency would need to conduct a specific engineering study before such a system could be approved.

Water Treatment Plant

The council also approved $39,592 from the city’s water fund to Stableman Electric to install variable frequency drives at the Brookings Water Treatment Plant.

The project includes replacement of vintage 1980s water pump motor starters.

According to a council agenda report from City Manager Howard, the new equipment will reduce energy costs and reduce water hammer.

The new devices also allow adjustment of the water flow, reducing water main blowouts, she said.  

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