County approves AFSCME contract
Lane County commissioners approved a new contract with county government employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees on Tuesday, a week after the union ended a strike by more than 500 AFSCME workers.
Commissioners voted 4-0 in a pair of votes Tuesday to implement contract terms the sides agreed to Oct. 24. Commissioner Pat Farr, whose son is an AFSCME-represented county employee, abstained from voting.
The employees went on strike Oct. 18, picketing outside county government buildings after months of negotiations failed to yield an agreement on terms for a new three-year contract.
Employees protested the raises proposed by the county, along with requirements to start paying $240 to $840 per year toward their health insurance premiums next year, for which they currently pay nothing.
The agreement, which union members approved on Friday, largely followed the pay-raise and other compensation terms that the administration had been demanding. However, the union did succeed in obtaining small additional raises for lower-wage workers in the union’s general and nurses units, which represent a total of 692 Lane County employees. Other concessions the union got included a six-month delay for employees to start paying toward their health insurance premiums and some ability to negotiate wage increases in the middle of the contract.
“I’m really glad that we’re concluding this today,” Commissioner Pete Sorenson said Tuesday. “I’m sorry that it took so long, and I’m sorry it took such a toll on people on all sides.”
The new three-year contract is retroactive to July 1 and runs through June 30, 2020.
In other board business Tuesday, the commissioners unanimously approved one-year extensions for Lane County’s public housing agency and Fifth Street Public Market developer Brian Obie to file for permits to build their long-anticipated downtown Eugene mixed-use developments.
Lane County government’s Housing and Community Services Agency, or HACSA, and Obie were supposed to apply for building permits by mid-December for their multistory apartment and retail projects, under 99-year lease agreements the entities signed with the county for the county-owned parking lots in 2013.
But HACSA’s main anticipated funding stream for its 50-unit, low-rent apartment complex at Oak Street and East Sixth Avenue was cut off this year. The agency plans to fund most of the apartment complex’s estimated $12.6 million cost through federal low-income housing tax credits, which affordable-housing developers apply for through the state each year.
The county hit a roadblock this year when Oregon made a one-time change to how it allocates the millions of dollars in tax credits to state and local agencies after President Trump’s election fueled anticipation of corporate tax cuts that could cut the value of the tax credits and how much developers could raise by selling them.
HACSA plans to apply for a new round of the tax credits in January.
Obie pitches his building as a $50 million expansion of Fifth Street Public Market, with roughly 130 market-rate apartments rising five stories above ground-floor shops and restaurants.
He also considers his and HACSA’s buildings as partner projects, though the entities signed separate leases for their properties.
If Obie can convince the Eugene City Council that the projects are intertwined, the arrangement could save him millions of dollars in future property taxes he’d owe on the building. He eventually plans to apply for tax breaks through Eugene’s controversial Multi-Unit Property Tax Exemption, or MUPTE, program, and hopes the council will count the 50 units in HACSA’s building toward Obie’s MUPTE requirement that at least 30 percent of a qualifying apartment building’s units be capped with rents of no more than 30 percent of the area’s median income.
The extension commissioners approved Tuesday gives HACSA and Obie until December 2018 to apply for building permits.
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