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Columbia to consider rules for utility worker pay in emergencies

Columbia to consider rules for...

Columbia to consider rules for...

COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Columbia City Council may change the rules for how utility workers get paid when sent to help after disasters.

The council will vote on two different items Tuesday night related to mutual aid pay for utility crews. The first would change city ordinance regarding the rate that the city pays those workers, while the second would pay some workers that helped restore power in Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

Columbia Water & Light sent eight employees to Jacksonville in early October as part of a mutual aid agreement with the state. The city paid the workers then was reimbursed by the local utility they helped. The Columbia line crews worked 17-hour days to get power back to parts of the city that experienced 87-mph winds during the hurricane.

A memo sent to the city council said the area the crews worked in had a higher prevailing wage for that type of work than the city's rate. A prevailing wage dictates the minimum amount workers in certain construction or maintenance jobs must make in a state, county or city.

Staff wrote that the utility they helped has already paid the city for the work. The council will need to approve the additional payment of $25,403 to those workers because of the prevailing wage in that area.

City ordinance only requires the city to pay mutual aid workers at the city's rate, including overtime. The change being sought would allow the city to pay at a higher rate, if necessary, due to local laws of where the work takes place.

ABC 17 News discovered that Columbia Water & Light workers also earned the most money in overtime work from Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 1 of this year. An open records request made last week shows those employees took home $310,434.18.

Overall, city departments have paid $767,519.79 in overtime costs in that time. Public Works paid the second-most, with the fire and police departments following them.



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