Scottsbluff firefighters have a new union contract, and the city has approved a search firm to find its next city manager.

Both moves were approved Monday night by the Scottsbluff City Council.

The agreement with firefighters provides a 3 1/2% increase to the union’s pay scale effective Monday. The contract itself will be backdated to Oct. 1 to fall in line with the city’s fiscal year, however the pay increase will not be retroactive. The Commission of Industrial Relations requires that firefighter wages be between 98 and 102% of wages for departments within an array of communities in Nebraska. Scottsbluff’s array includes Beatrice, Columbus, Fremont, Hastings, McCook, Norfolk, North Platte and York. Negotiations are ongoing with the city’s police and public works unions.

An agreement previously authorized by the city council that would allow for an automatic dispatch policy for mutual aid between the Scottsbluff Fire Department and Scottsbluff Rural Fire Department was brought back to the council with Fire Chief Tom Schingle reporting that Scottsbluff Rural has opted to table the agreement at this time.

“We will still provide assistance to them, and request them, just under the mutual aid agreement rather than have it automatically dispatched,” Schingle said. “There still is a mechanism in place to assist each other.”

The city received eight proposals from search firms to begin the process of replacing City Manager Nathan Johnson, who has resigned effective following the council’s March 2 meeting. Former City Manager Rick Kuckkahn will be filling in on an interim basis effective Feb. 18. The council approved a proposal from Baker Tilly in the amount of $24,500. The proposal gives a projected timeline of 60-90 days for placement of a candidate, putting the new manager in place in April or May. Kuckkahn’s interim contract runs through June 1 or until a new manager is in place with an option for both sides to evaluate the situation in the event a replacement is not hired by then.

Council members Scott Shaver and Nathan Green both questioned why the city doesn’t use its own resources and website and professional sites such as Linkedin to recruit a candidate rather than hiring an outside firm.

“None of these sites have experience with Nebraska,” Shaver said. “Most of them, I found utterly unimpressive. I think we could do better on our own.”

In response to a question from council member Jeanne McKerrigan, Johnson indicated that North Platte has been seeking a city manager on its own, but is now looking into hiring a search firm. McKerrigan said timing is critical given the three-month commitment from Kuckkahn in the interim role.

“I think it’s important to hire now while we have the opportunity versus trying to locate someone on our own because we have limited time with Rick Kuckkahn,” McKerrigan said.

Mayor Raymond Gonzales said, “I certainly think that by hiring a search firm we will be able to obtain somebody of high caliber as a city manager, and certainly I support doing so.”

Council member Terry Schaub said he believes that the search needs to be conducted in a timely manner and his priorities would be someone to help focus on economic development and to work within the community.

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Reporter

Mark McCarthy is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9049 or via email at mark.mccarthy@starherald.com.

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