Employees express frustrations at Columbus City Council - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

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Employees express frustrations at Columbus City Council

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -

Council members met with city employees at Tuesday's work session to discuss ways to cut back. They still haven't decided where to make changes.

City employees showed up in large numbers to voice their concerns about rising healthcare costs among other woes. While premiums haven't gone up on city health insurance since 2009, employees aren't seeing much in the way of raises.

Now the Employees' Benefits Committee has recommended that the workers absorb $2 million in costs to keep the city and taxpayers from footing the bill, but some say they just can't accept that.

"Maybe we can come to a happy medium," says Public Services supervisor Kevin Wells. "I know health goes up, that's just a natural thing, but it's just a bad thing right now with all the other costs they hit us with. We pay our retirement now and we used to not do that, and we haven't seen a decent pay raise in quite a while."

"The city used to take care of us," Wells added in the meeting. "Every Thanksgiving I used to get a turkey. Every Christmas I used to get a ham. Do I get anything now? Work, that's what I get."

Councilor Jerry "Pops" Barnes says he won't support raising costs to employees, and other council members agree. "I'm not going to vote for it because we consistently come to the employees each year, and we tell them, 'look we need you to kick more in to keep the program solvent' without giving the employees any substantial raise," says Barnes.

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and councilors assured the workers they could come to any of them at any time with complaints.

Council members also asked questions about gap time. There was much debate over whether to continue paying salaried workers hourly for time they're scheduled to work, especially since the city is telling employees they don't have the money to pay for insurance cost increases.

Barnes says, "It was brought up that some of our employees are on food stamps. That should not be. We as council need to do a better job."

He supports taking the $2 million needed for insurance from the city's general fund, saying the government won't implode. Mayor Tomlinson has said it's very important the reserve not dip below 60 reserve days. At the current rate, the government could reach this threshold by July 2015.

Other topics on the council's agenda included pension benefits and workers compensation.

No consensus was reached at the work session, but councilors will meet again to find some solutions.

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