De Pere council approves incentive for vaccinated employees
By Lee Reinsch
DE PERE – The De Pere Common Council voted 6-1, Wednesday, Feb. 17, in favor of an incentive for city employees who receive the coronavirus and flu vaccines.
The incentive will be $250 per covered person ($500 for the employee and a spouse) deposited into the employee’s health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) account in 2022.
A $1.2 million surplus from cost-saving measures over the past few years in the city spurred the incentive program, the first of several expected in the near future.
Those unable to get the vaccine due to medical or religious reasons would be eligible for a substitute bonus option yet to be determined.
Alder Dan Carpenter, the only alder to vote against the measure, said he felt the surplus money should go straight to the employees.
“It’s their money, not the city’s money to be played with in any way,” he said, adding that he doesn’t support the idea of carrying a surplus.
“We should have just enough surplus necessary to keep the fund floating,” he said.
Ald. Jonathon Hansen said the program’s cost if all 197 eligible people received the payments would be under $50,000, about 4 percent of the $1.2 million surplus.
“More vaccinations lead to a reduction in costs to the health care plan, so I think we need to look at the broader perspective of how much we’re going to save by getting more of our employees vaccinated,” Hansen said.
In other business, the board voted unanimously to form a pandemic response downtown business recruitment grant program.
The new group, Jump Start De Pere, will consist of the mayor, the city administrator, an alderperson, the director of development services and the executive director of Definitely De Pere.
The board also approved:
• Reallocating $425,000 in excess stadium tax funds that were once allocated to an amphitheater project ($125,000) at Voyageur Park and a splash pad ($300,000), both of which have been placed on hold indefinitely, to the redevelopment of the site of the future cultural center.
• Awarding a $238,190 contract for sidewalk and curb repairs to Sommers Construction Company, and a $247,223 contract for concrete street repairs to Vinton Construction Company.
• Soliciting bids from architectural firms to design an expansion to the municipal services center on Sixth Street. The city had a plan drawn up in 2010 that estimated that an expansion would cost around $900,000. According to Scott Thoresen, director of public works, the center needs more space to store equipment and vehicles, some of which is being stored outdoors due to lack of space in the garage.
• Closing the easternmost block of Reid Street, from Third Street to the Fox River, for the use of St. Norbert College. The title to that portion of land will revert to the college, which will be responsible for lighting, signage and maintenance duties such as street sweeping, snow removal and road patching. Alder Amy Chandik Kundinger recused herself from the vote due to a conflict of interest.
• Putting $100,000 toward a grant fund that will give grants of $5,000 and $10,000 to business owners who start new businesses in, open a second location in, or relocate from another city to the downtown area.