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The La Crosse County Board has extended some union contracts for two years, which include pay raise language. Only three votes were cast against the contracts. County personnel director Bob Taunt says this will settle union matters for three years, while other parts of Wisconsin experiment with the governor's budget repairs.
Opponents of the extension do not want the county locked into granting raises for the next two years, when nobody knows what the economy will be like over that period.
If record flooding really does occur in the area, people on French Island are going to need a few sandbags.
Probably more than a few, says town administrator Jim Gitz. Right now, they can have 200. He says, until some more federal and state assistance comes through, that limit will stay in place and homeowners will have to make arrangements privately for more.
Gitz says, the town is in emergency preparation mode right now getting together plans for worse-case scenarios of flooding in streets and sewer problems. He says there's never enough time to prepare for any emergency but the town's well ahead of any preparations that were made for flooding events in the past.
Opening salvos today in contract extension negotiations between the city of La Crosse and its biggest union. Rich Smith heads SEIU 180. He's meeting with the city today with the understanding that the lack of an extension beyond this year has dire consequences for his members because of the new law limiting collective bargaining powers for unions. He says that one year extension could be huge because it would give his members one more year of certainty before potentially losing all sorts of protections and benefits.
Smith says sometimes contract negotiations can drag on for months. This time he's got a week before the new law goes into effect.
After nine years, a water rate increase in La Crosse is bound to be on the big side. Water utility manager Mark Johnson agrees that an estimated 32% hike for water rates in the city isn't inconsequential. But he says that percentage represents an average increase and the average water user will see a $15 per quarter jump on the water bill. Johnson says the increase size is unavoidable since it's been so long since the last increase.
2002 was the city's last water rate hike. The city council will have to agree to the water increase.
The water utility has received increases in sewer rates and, late in 2010, instituted a new fire hydrant fee.
The stated idea behind Wisconsin's workplace smoking ban was pretty straightforward: Improve the health of workers. Apparently going pretty well. A new study finds bartenders suffering a lot less from smoking ailments since the ban went into effect in the summer. Judi Zabel in the La Crosse county health department saw that one coming. She says the same thing happened after the cities of Appleton and Madison went smoke free in bars.
The bartenders in the study reported a 36% decrease in smoking related symptoms like wheezing and shortness of breath.