2017-08-12 / Top News

Full-time City Employees Entitled to Personal Days

By Jacob A. Ball

Full-time employees of the City of Mackinac Island will be entitled to paid vacations, sick leave, and to attend the funerals of immediate family members under an amendment to the city’s salaries ordinance unanimously adopted at an August 2 meeting of the city council.

Municipal workers will gain one sick day for each month of employment, up to a maximum of 20 sick days, or 160 hours, per year, under the amended ordinance. Ten paid vacation days will be available to employees who’ve worked one to five years for the city, 15 paid vacation days for six-year to 10-year employees, and 20 paid vacation days for those who’ve worked for the city a decade or more.

Paid leave of up to five days for bereavement will be restricted to arrangements and last rites for a worker’s spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, mother-inlaw, or father-in-law.

In the past, paid time off for vacation, illnesses, or a death in the family was available to most employees, but this was not specifically noted, although these workers have commonly been given leave time for vacations, and accommodations were made for emergencies or a longer-term illness. The change in policy was inspired by a case last winter in which a municipal employee without paid sick leave missed nearly a month of work owing to illness.

Prior to the council’s adoption of the changes in employee benefits, its ordinance committee unanimously approved the proposals, as well as a new definition of what constitutes a full-time employee, rules regarding vacation days during the busy summer season, and a regulation to prevent the accumulation of unused vacation days that could be used by a retiring employee.

Under the ordinance revisions, the city clerk must keep track of and document all holiday, sick leave, funeral leave, and vacation time for full-time employees. The city salaries ordinance lists 12 full-time year-around positions.

The ordinance committee also discussed, without action, pro- posed new restrictions on the size of headstones and gravesite decorations, fences, or stone walls in the city cemetery at Ste. Anne’s Catholic Church. An amendment to Island rules permitting some types of in-home occupations was discussed and sent to the Planning Commission for review.

This new sick leave setup will allow full compensation for up to four weeks during an illness. For a longer illness, the city and its worker will have to consider additional options such as worker’s compensation and disability insurance.

The ordinance committee previously had considered incorporating leave time for the death of a close relative in the city’s sick leave policy, but decided keeping them separate is more practical; it avoids the necessity to consider exceptions for employees who need more than their maximum sick days owing to both personal illness and the death of a close family member in the same year.

To ensure the city always has enough staffers on duty during the peak tourism season, no employee will be allowed more than five consecutive vacation days between Memorial Day and Labor Day each summer. Employees will be required to clear their vacation plans with their supervisors.

All vacation time must be used within the “anniversary year” of each employee, meaning an employee loses any vacation days not taken within each 12-month period from the anniversary of his or her employment. That’s to prevent workers from banking weeks or months of paid leave and collecting money for it upon their retirement.

The changed salary ordinance defines a full-time employee as one who works at least 35 hours a week for at least 48 weeks a year. The original proposal would have required 30 hours a week for at least 48 weeks, but was increased at the request of councilman Steve Moskwa, who said he didn’t want paid leave to be an incentive for employees to work such short weeks.

Councilmembers also boosted to $18 an hour the pay for assistant city foreman Mike Ruddle, a $3.50 an hour raise. Mr. Ruddle will replace retiring city foreman Sidney DeHaan at summer’s end but his pay increase will be immediate as a transitional raise. The minimum wage for the assistant position, now $14.50 an hour, previously was the maximum. Future hires for assistant city foreman will be paid based on their experience, members said, and not necessarily what the maximum that Mr. Ruddle now makes..

The ordinance committee sent back to the cemetery board a set of recommendations that would have included a 32-inch height limit for new gravestones, 36 inches on a multiple-burial lot. The cemetery board also recommended a requirement that it would have to approve all decorations and alterations to gravesites, from fences and stone walls to plants and small items that might include wreaths or flags.

Ordinance Committee chairwoman and councilmember Anneke Myers, building inspector Dennis Dombroski, and Mr. Moskwa all said the height restriction seemed too low. They said the limit seemed arbitrary, especially when exceptions would have to be allowed for several headstones now in city cemeteries that are far taller than 32 inches.

Ordinance committee members also objected to requiring that all decorations receive approval from the cemetery board. Councilmember Kay Hoppenrath, who serves on the cemetery board, said the board wants more control over decorations as the result of a recent dispute over a hedge.

The upshot of this discussion is that the ordinance committee and cemetery board will meet to exchange views regarding headstones and gravesite decorations. Members of the ordinance committee plan to attend the next cemetery board meeting, at 10 a.m. Wednesday, August 16.

A proposed zoning amendment, which the ordinance committee sent on to the planning commission, would allow lowimpact home occupations as long as they could be carried out within enclosed structures, didn’t create a public nuisance such as noise, vibration, glare, fumes, odor, unsightly or unsanitary conditions, or fire hazards, and didn’t “endanger the health, safety, welfare, or enjoyment of any other person in the area.”

Signs would be prohibited, except for a small announcement placard on the main building of the property. In addition, business licenses will not be issued for any home occupation other than those that require documentation based on state statutes.

The city originally wrote rules regulating home occupations into the most recent zoning ordinance. The proposed amendment is designed to give the city more authority to supervise the operation of home occupations. The initial language was purposefully left simple to encourage home occupations, however, certain missing and overly-stringent regulations were added and changed.

The planning commission did not raise any concerns Tuesday, August 8, at its monthly meeting. The commission has now scheduled a public hearing for Tuesday, September 12, at 3:30 p.m. The city council will then have the opportunity to grant final approval for the changes. The amendment will take effect immediately, if passed.

The committee identified one homeowner who would be in violation of the proposed ordinance. City attorney Tom Evashevski sent a letter to this resident warning of the potential infractions and to allow the individual to correct them.

No action was taken on proposed rule changes for motor vehicle permits on the Island. The ordinance committee will discuss them again at its next meeting before recommending city council approval.

Besides some technical revisions, one rule change would require that someone seeking a motor vehicle permit in the offseason, November 1 to May 1, prove they would be unreasonably burdened without it, and demand “clear and convincing evidence” that denial of a motor vehicle permit will result in “hardship” during the May 2 through October 31 tourism season.

In an earlier draft of the proposed motor vehicle permit rules changes, the requirement for an in-season permit would have been clear and convincing evidence of “extreme hardship,” but Mr. Evashevski decided that would be too restrictive.

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