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City Beat: City looks to distribute funds for up to 200 temp jobs

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City beat from the Aug. 8 City Council meeting. For minutes and schedule, visit springfieldmo.gov/citycouncil.
Springfield City Council members were asked Aug. 8 to consider accepting more than $1.3 million in Missouri disaster relief grants to create up to 200 temporary jobs to improve flood-damaged areas in Christian, Stone, Polk, Taney and Webster counties.

Workforce Development Director Bill Dowling said he hoped that the work experience gained through these temporary positions would lead to full-time employment.

He said nearly $1 million would be distributed to Springfield-based employment agency Penmac Personnel Services Inc. to handle the hiring and payment distribution to keep the city from being liable for workers’ compensation claims as an employer. Dowling said because the city is the hub of the seven-county Ozarks region, it is responsible for distributing the money made available through Missouri Disaster Recovery Jobs Program Grant, which is funded through a U.S. Department of Labor National Emergency Grant.

If council approves the measure at its Aug. 22 meeting, the temporary workers would be employed for roughly 1,000 hours each and paid between $10.50 and $13.50 per hour, meeting prevailing wage requirements for cleanup work and restoration projects in flood-damaged areas.

Paula Adams, president of Penmac, said she believed the company was chosen to be the employer of record because of its ability to defer liability with regard to unemployment and workers’ compensation coverage. She said its history of finding jobs for workers, which it can do when the cleanup work is completed, helped as well.

“If they don’t have jobs after this training money is available, we are an avenue because we do have other positions that these people could possibly be eligible for,” Adams said.

She said Penmac would hire up to 200 people after selecting 60 to 70 to get started in Webster, Taney and Polk counties, which experienced the most severe flood damage. Adams said employees would be general laborers, dump truck drivers and data entry professionals.

In addition to supporting the temporary positions, the money would allow the city’s Department of Workforce Development to hire one full-time employee and one contract employee, an issue that drew questions from Councilman Nick Ibarra, who wondered why administrative positions would need to be created for temporary jobs.

Dowling said the new staff would work to help find permanent homes for the temporary workers, many of whom are expected to come from the hard-hit construction industry.

Mayor Jim O’Neal said he supported the program and asked Dowling to provide council a brief report that amounts to a “30,000-foot view” of how it operates before the Aug. 22 vote. “The vast majority of that money goes to those people working in the field. This is not a social program that never ends,” O’Neal said.

Dowling said the city has received similar grant funds in the past and distributed them to the counties themselves, but that led to the workers being eligible for unemployment benefits, which in turn costs those counties money. That was why he said Penmac was chosen.

CU budget
City Utilities officials have hired Kansas City-based consultant Burns & McDonnell to analyze costs of upgrades it expects to endure during the next five years as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers implementing new emissions regulations.

CU General Manager Scott Miller said the utility provider could have to cover up to $200 million in improvement expenses, though it is unclear at this point how far-reaching EPA rules would be. Miller said the EPA would consider public input during the next couple of years before it makes any changes. He said a draft report by the consultant group, which will look at what is likely to happen and help CU weigh its options, is expected to be complete in about six months.

“One of the things that we try to do with our board is to make sure that they understand not only what our budget is, but also future potential risks,” Miller said in an interview following an Aug. 9 budget study session with the CU board. “When you talk about risks, it’s probably better to go to the top end of the risk profile and say, ‘It could be this.’ But we’re going to try to manage to make it less than that.”

The Board of Public Utilities and Springfield City Council will hold an Aug. 16 study session and public hearing on the budget.

The fiscal 2012 budget is $528.8 million, 2.5 percent larger than the current budget, and it includes more than $15 million set aside for the construction of a new transfer facility, improvements to its maintenance station on North Boonville Avenue and funds to buy longer buses.

Miller said the nearly $4 million in funds set for the construction of a new bus transfer station – now under consideration near the corner of Elm Street and Kimbrough Avenue – is part of the 2012 budget in case those plans become concrete and the funds need to be spent during the fiscal year beginning in October.[[In-content Ad]]

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