By Jacob Wilson/Garden Grove Journal
Westminster Mayor Margie Rice was back at the helm for the July 27 city council meeting.
Rice had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor on July 13.
“Her doctor told her to take it easy for three weeks,” City Manager Mitch Waller said. “I think she lasted three days before she was back on the job.”
Though tired and speaking softly, Rice appeared to be in good spirits. “I am now cancer-free, thank God for that and thank all of you,” she said. “It will take another six weeks before I can drive so I may miss some meetings, but I’ll be there and I’ll be back.”
Council member Andy Quach missed this meeting because he was representing the city at a function at Camp Pendleton Marine Base.
Without him, the short-handed council approved new labor agreements, known as memorandums of understanding, with the Westminster Police Officers’ Association and the Westminster Municipal Employees’ Association. The council also approved a separate compensation plan for unrepresented employees.
“I want to thank our employees for biting the bullet and accepting this plan,” Rice said. “It is a drop for them and it just shows their loyalty and it shows their love for this city.”
The plan calls for employees to contribute more to their retirement funds than in previous years. State law requires the city to pay the equivalent of up to nine percent of an employee’s salary into a retirement fund. The city can then deduct all or part of that payment from the employee’s salary.
Current employees may be required to contribute up to six percent for their retirement, depending on employment status. New employees hired after July 28 will be asked to pay the full contribution, up to nine percent.
But the city will contribute an extra $100 per month for employees with a qualifying family plan in addition to normal health insurance contributions. And this year the city will provide employees with one-time stipends based on three percent of salary.
The changes will decrease the city’s long-term labor costs. But the city will actually face a net loss of $57,000 this year because of the stipends. The city could see savings of up to half a million dollars in each of the next two years.
“We reached this point today because of cooperation on both sides negotiating in good faith,” Mayor Pro Tem Tyler Diep said. “We’re cutting costs, and we are reducing our long term liabilities. At the same time we are honoring our commitment and our promises to our employees.”
Diep added that the city has not had any layoffs or salary reduction.
The meeting began with a joint presentation from Southern California Edison and the Southern California Gas Company. Representatives from each company presented the council with plaques, acknowledging the city’s commitment to energy efficiency.
The city’s third-annual Green Expo is Aug. 11. The free event includes a seminar and a concert. Expo visitors will also be able to see a number of environmentally-friendly products like electric cars, artificial grass and tankless water heaters.