Ottawa council removes USIC agreement from agenda; will discuss further at next meeting

Local trade union objects to agreement, saying it takes away work done by union city workers

The Ottawa City Council reached its quorum Tuesday night by a minimum, leading the commissioners to remove items from the agenda, notably a resolution that would have authorized a facilities locating and marking contract with USIC Locating.

Mayor Dan Aussem said the item doesn’t appear to have unanimous agreement among the council, as Commissioner Wayne Eichelkraut has come out against it. Eichelkraut wasn’t present at Tuesday’s meeting.

Ottawa’s AFSCME Local 2819 union spoke out against an agreement with USIC last week in a news release, saying the proposed contract with USIC will take work marking utility locations that is normally done in-house by union city workers for decades.

AFSCME said in a Thursday news release the $93,000 it would cost the city to enter an agreement with USIC is nearly $13,000 higher than using their labor.

“I think that their numbers are flawed,” Aussem said. “They come up with that number by saying it’s costing the city nothing to do it now.

“Our point is that there’s a lot of other things we could have our guys do, specifically change out our water meters,” Aussem added. “We’ve got some old water meters in town that I’ve been proposing get replaced for at least four years. They don’t have radio controls.”

AFSCME pointed out in its press release USIC is a non-union company based in Indiana, and the money spent hiring an outside firm would be better spent hiring an additional city worker.

“This $93,400 expenditure as an additional cost to the citizens of Ottawa,” reads the news release. “There will be no savings of money. This dollar amount is based on figures the mayor gave to the union, not some made up number.”

Aussem said the city is not making any progress on updating the water meter, and using USIC for utility location would open up time for city workers to update the meters.

In another item, the council placed on file an agreement with Surf Air Wireless, the same company that installed WiFi internet through downtown.

Aussem said the city wants to make gigabit internet an option for citizens in Ottawa.

“We’re entering an agreement to allow them to run their conduits down the streets to try and coordinate it with our street, water and sewer repairs,” Aussem said. “It’ll also give them access to our water towers. It’ll be a franchise agreement similar to what we have with a cable company where we receive some type of fee for allowing them access to all of the properties.”

The city of Ottawa has had a notice on its website for the past few months asking residents to submit a show of interest in Surf internet.

“Their hope is they have people sign up and businesses sign up and get a bunch of people in one neighborhood,” Aussem said. “They’ll concentrate on doing that spot first, but these are all agreements placed on file so we can act on them at the next meeting.”