RHINELANDER - Old abandoned store fronts can be eyesores But one store in Rhinelander might be hurting more than just the eyes. That's why the City plans to tear it down.
The City of Rhinelander needs grants to remove Lindey Cleaners. The grants would mostly come from the state. The City will sign a contract Monday night to determine the cost of the property.
"We'll be taking it down sooner or later but the only thing is that it's a cost factor and its extremely expensive in regards to it. [And] there's only one way that the city can handle it and that's with a grant system and we're going to have to get grants or we won't be able to do it," says Richard Johns, Rhinelander Mayor.
Lindey Cleaners, an old dry cleaner, served Rhinelander for decades. People fear the store may have years of chemicals seeping into the ground. The city first needs to purchase the property and investigate environmental damage.
"And that's a process that we'll have to work our way through that system too and see what we get. But it'll take a long time to get it. It don't happen overnight," said the Mayor.
It's still unknown how many chemicals are in the ground. Once the store is removed, the City may use the ground as a parking lot.
Public employee union suing city over collective bargaining agreement
RHINELANDER - A Rhinelander employee union believes the city illegally rejected their collective bargaining agreement,now they’re suing the city.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 1226 represents City of Rhinelander workers from public works, wastewater, parks, water and golf course employees. They filed suit against the city on Dec. 4, 2013.
The union says they reached a tentative agreement for a new collective bargaining agreement in early December 2012. But according court documents, the union claims the city council illegally rejected the agreement and didn’t tell the union about it.
Aaron Halstead, from Madison-based firm Hawks Quindel, S.C., has been a labor lawyer for more than 20 years and says he has never seen a municipality do something like this before.
"I've never had any municipality do what the city did here which is to reject an agreement with the union, despite the fact that they had an agreement on all of the terms," Halstead said.
The union believes the city is violating Wisconsin Municipal Employment Relations Act. In 2012, city workers asked for a one percent wage increase starting January 1,2013.
Halstead said the city and union agreed to that increase in their tentative agreement. According to the group's complaint, the city council rejected the tentative collective bargaining agreement, but passed the one percent wage increase as a resolution.
But the union claims the collective bargaining agreement wasn’t renewed. Instead the group says the city passed a resolution putting the terms into a personnel manual.
Rhinelander city council met Monday night to discuss how to move forward once the city is formally served with lawsuit.
"I think it's unfortunate. We have a good relationship with the union, and a good relationship with the employees," said Blaine Oborn, Rhinelander city administrator. "We have a lot of outstanding employees. So unfortunately, with all this ambiguity [concerning] Acts 10 and 32, I think that this kind of stuff unfortunately [happens]."
The complaint also claims that the city reduced the wages of newly hired people by $4 an hour. They say this violates the terms of the parties' tentative agreement. Halstead says they still haven't received an explanation.
"The city contends that it doesn't have to, but it has never provided a satisfactory answer as to what it is that is objectionable about the agreement that was reached," Halstead said.
Monday nights' meeting was a closed session.
The city will have three weeks to respond to the complaint.
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