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What will the financial impact of the strike be

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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Costs incurred to the city due to the public services strike of the past two weeks are “incremental.” That’s according to City Manager Jim Estep, who said it’s because the city isn’t paying the 36 striking classified employees. “None of this is a large number because we are not paying them. We are paying somebody else instead of them,” Estep said. Garbage pick-up is being contracted out, according to Assistant City Manager Anna Jatczak, which costs $48 an hour for each employee working. The News Messenger asked Jatczak how much the city has spent for contracted garbage service. She did not answer, saying instead that “the city has not received any invoices yet for services performed.” Five contracted garbage truck drivers are currently covering the city, according to Jatczak. “We only had three to four in the last couple weeks and today we got our fifth person,” Jatczak said Monday. “It’s all in who the disposal company can spare.” Jatczak said the city also had to “temporarily contract out water-meter reading.” “We have to be able to appropriately bill people for their monthly water usage,” Jatczak said. When asked by The News Messenger what the city paid for the contracted meter readers, Jatczak’s said, “We have not received any invoices yet for services performed.” Jatczak also said there was an “additional cost for security patrols,” which patrol the airport and the city’s corp yard for $16.50 an hour. “It’s to protect the city’s assets, to protect them from anybody who might go out and sabotage them,” Estep said. Two security guards patrol 10 hours a day, according to Jatczak, which comes to $330 per day for security patrol. Public-services director Mark Miller said the city has contracted employees on call for any emergency calls in the street, sewer, water or fleet maintenance departments. “We always have someone on call for emergencies and our supervisors have stepped up (to help),” Miller said. “Some of those on call we’ve used in the past for emergencies.” The department is sending city vehicles to outside mechanics for maintenance and repairs outside of what the city’s fleet maintenance supervisor can handle, according to Miller. Miller did not have a dollar amount for how much has been spent on work contracted out. “There are of course costs and there are savings, and finance is tracking all of that,” Miller said. “We are trying to do everything as cost effectively as we can. We are tracking our costs and controlling them as best we can.” Estep said Tuesday night that the city will have a dollar amount for how much contracted work during the strike has cost the city when invoices from each contractor are received. As far as the cost of labor negotiations goes, Estep estimated that the city’s contracted labor negotiator Larry Menthe has worked 12 hours since the strike began. Menthe charges $100 for every hour he works for Lincoln, which comes to an estimated $1,200 paid to him since the strike began two weeks ago. The city could incur more costs once the strike is over, according to Estep. “There are potentially costs for catching up when they (classified employees) come back,” Estep said. “We might have to pay overtime to get them caught up.” Estep said the city will continue contracting out work until the employees return to work. “It’s more expensive on a short-term basis because companies are providing staff and equipment at a premium price because they don’t know how long they’ll be there,” Estep said. “If we had them on a long-term contract, it could be spread out over a longer time,” Estep said. “We are playing it by ear to see how long the strikes lasts.” Estep said there is “no set point” at which the work would be contracted out in the long-term.