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Meeker Co. ratifies final employee contracts

LITCHFIELD -- Meeker County has finished its union negotiations with employees, agreeing to a zero increase in salary for the next two years.

The contracts for the highway department, jailers, dispatchers and assistant county attorney were approved Thursday by the Meeker County Board of Commissioners.

In November contracts were approved for deputies and social service employees. The two-year contract includes no cost of living increases for 2011 and 2012, according to County Administrator Paul Virnig.

The county will, however, increase its share of the cost for employee health insurance and the employee step advancements will be retained.

Virnig said the negotiation process "went well."

The commissioners also agreed to offer another voluntary early retirement incentive that could save the county money by potentially reducing the number of older employees that have a higher salary than new workers. In 2009 four full-time employees accepted an early retirement incentive. Some of those positions were not filled and some were filled by using part-time workers.

Virnig said six or seven people would be eligible for the program if they chose to accept it now. To qualify, workers must be 65 or older by Jan. 1 or have a combined age and years of service that totals 93.

Employees have from Dec. 15 to Jan. 14 to sign up. The financial incentive includes a county contribution of $3,000 to $9,000 to the employee's benefit plan.

In a letter to employees, Chairman Wally Strand said the Commissioners are thankful for its "talented and dedicated" employees but added, "It is no secret that these are tough times for everyone and like individuals, families and businesses throughout the country, Meeker County faces tough budget issues."

Strand said the voluntary early retirement incentive would be "beneficial to all parties involved."

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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