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City looks at handbook changes to define on-call requirements

City of Medford on-call employees will have some new rules in place thanks to a rewrite of the policy manual by the city’s labor attorney.

At Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, aldermen gave preliminary approval to updates to the city’s employee handbook.

At the request of Mayor Wellner, City labor attorney Kyle Gulya of Madison reviewed the Work Schedule/ Overtime section in order to clarify the on-call language. The attorney rewrote the entire section.

According to Wellner, the attorney’s feedback on the section was that a lot of it was outdated and needed to be redone. Wellner said that in the past the on-call was largely handled by direction between the employee and their department head. To avoid confusion and future issues, Wellner said he felt it needed to be in writing.

Major changes to the handbook include: “Called In” or “Call in” is defined as when an employee is contacted and reports to the designated worksite for authorized work. An employee who merely answers a call and provides information or works but does not report to the designated worksite is not “called in” for purposes of this policy.

“On call standby” is defined as the time the employee spends away from work but is required to be ready and available for work, should the need arise.

“Ready and available for work” means the employee is free to use his or her time for personal uses but is also physically and mentally able and ready for work, has not been consuming alcohol or other mind-altering substances, does not have any limitation preventing work, and has the availability of being contacted and responding within 20 minutes of the call for service presuming the employee travels in a manner complying with applicable motor vehicle operation laws. Employees may engage in any personal activities during this time provided the employee is ready and available for work.

According to the policy, the on-call time is typically between 3 p.m. Friday and 7 a.m. on Mondays with the practice to rotate the on-call between staff members in the departments.

Wellner said the department heads have been notified and were supportive of the changes that clarify the rules. He said it will be brought to the staff after it has been approved by council.

Alderman Clem Johnson questioned the language of use of city owned vehicles. According to city coordinator Joe Harris, for some of the positions the city supplies vehicles, but under the change to the handbook, when the employee is not at work the vehicle must remain at their work location. For example, at the public works shop or wastewater treatment facility.

Alderman Christine Weix questioned the provision about the difference between getting called at home and being called out. She asked how many times employees would be called to answer questions without having to come in to work.

Harris responded that it was very rare when they would be called just for a question and not have to come in. He said question situations occur typically when people from outside the city call the city for something. In these instances, he said, the city employee directs them to who they should be contacting.

Aldermen voted to recommend approving the changes in the handbook with it facing final approval on Oct. 26.

In other business, aldermen:

_ Recommended approval of the liquor license for the Brass Rail Pub effective Oct. 27. Operator Gloria Frahm introduced herself to the council and said that in addition to the bar, they would be open for lunch and have a dinner and appetizer menu with homemade pizza, salads, soups and a fish fry. She said they are excited to be in the Medford area and look forward to opening by Nov. 10.

_ Recommended approving a waste haulers license for GFL Environmental headquartered in Vaughan, Canada. The company is in the process of acquiring portions of Waste Management and Advanced Disposal Services, Inc. and continue to run those divisions as separate firms. Alderman Mike Bub, who appeared via Zoom, questioned if the language of the city contract with Advanced would remain unchanged. “I get nervous when corporations merge and they think they can just enforce their own rules,” Bub said. Harris said the terms of the contract between Advanced and the city would remain unchanged with the merger.

_ Recommended approving a two-year private well permit for Wayne Kautzer at 715 West Allman Street. Wells that existed prior to property being annexed to the city are able to remain in operation as long as the owners have them tested and apply for a permit every two years. Kautzer annexed to the city due to a failing septic system and has been allowed to keep his well. Alderman Greg Knight questioned if there was a long-term plan to eliminate private wells as a way to reduce the chance of groundwater contamination. Harris explained that owners are allowed to replace the pump on their wells if that goes bad, but if the well fails inspection or needs a new casing the property owners must close the well and connect to city services.

_ Recommended approval of a state/municipal agreement for the resurfacing of Hwy 13 from CTH O to Taylor Street that is scheduled to take place in 2024. The work will be done under traffic with flaggers. Harris noted this is the same year the state is planning on resurfacing Hwy 64 through the city. Plans call for the state to mill off about two inches of surface and replace it with new surface. The city will be responsible for about $15,000 of utility work as part of the $1,489,474 project.