USB approves severance agreement for displaced LMU employees

Last Updated on February 13, 2016 by cassnetwork

On a vote of 3-0 today, the Utility Service Board approved a severance package for the 29 generating plant employees affected by the plant’s closing. According to Superintendent Paul Hartman, if every employee accepts the package, the cost to LMU would be “somewhat north of $900,000.”

Under the terms of the agreement, the employees would receive:

• A wage severance equal to the employee’s weekly earnings (40 hours at regular rate of pay with no overtime) x 2 x the number of completed years of continuous employment

• Sick day pay in the amount of $65 per accumulated and unused sick days, up to 30 days

• Sick day pay equivalent to one day’s straight time wages (8 hour pay) at regular pay rate for accumulated and unused sick days over 30 days

• Unaccrued 2016 vacation pay equal to the employee’s vacation pay that would have accrued from the date the agreement becomes effective  to employee’s anniversary date later in 2016, based upon the number of vacation weeks the employee earned as of his last anniversary date

By signing the agreement, the employee agrees that if his employment terminates on or before April 1, 2016, prior years of employment with LMU cannot be a factor on which the employee can base any grievance or other claim for entitlement  or advantage in securing such employment. The board explained, after a question from an employee, that employees would lose all seniority if they returned to LMU’s employment in the future, after accepting the severance.

Once they receive individual paperwork, each employee would have 45 days to sign, followed by a 7 day period in which they could revoke their signature. After that, they’d receive their severance pay on the next pay period following a five day window. The money would come from LMU’s budget for depreciation and replacement, and the total amount could not exceed the 2016 LMU electric generating budget.

Employees are not required to accept the severance package,  but unless they secure another employment position with LMU, their employment will be terminated April 1, 2016 at the latest. The attorney who helped LMU to put the package together called it a “very generous package,” “over and above anything that the employee was otherwise entitled to receive.”

About 14 affected employees attended the special meeting held Friday, February 12 at 2 p.m. Board members Dan Slusser, Marty Monahan and Don Strasser were in attendance, along with LMU Superintendent Paul Hartman, Mayor Dave Kitchell and several members of the Logansport City Council.

City Council President Teresa Popejoy addressed the board with a prepared statement:

“Members of the Utility Service Board, President Slusser and Mr. Hartman,

I have worked with each of you over the past four years in a diligent effort to save Logansport’s generating plant and its employees.  Because those efforts failed, our community has been forced to shut down these services January 31st.  Personally, I can assure these affected individuals no good manager wants to be placed in this position, and Mr. Hartman is no exception.

As Council President, speaking on behalf of all members of the Logansport City Council and with their consent, we would like to commend each of you for recognizing the need to assist your employees in this transition.  Not only have you gone above and beyond by retaining these employees beyond the Plant closing, provided paid time for employees to pursue other employment, brought in outside entities to assist employees with available training opportunities, and contacted area employers on employee behalf, you are also providing financial support when your contract with these employees allows for termination at the time of the plant closing with no further commitment.

Thank you for recognizing the service these individuals have provided!”

Mayor Dave Kitchell said that in a meeting, the Indiana Municipal Power Agency had indicated that two to three openings were available at the Richmond generating plant for which LMU’s affected employees could apply. Kitchell also said the city is working with IU Kokomo on a plan to train generating plant employees to do energy audits in our community.

Three employees, with 38, 22 and 15 years of service, addressed the board with questions about some of the terms of the agreement before the vote. After the vote, board members had a chance to share their comments.

“A lot of you are my friends,” Marty Monahan said. “We did everything that we possibly could. It just wasn’t in the cards. Paul came up with this so you would have at least some severance pay. I don’t want to say it’s better than nothing — it’s a lot better than nothing.”

“I hope this helps a little,” board member Don Strasser said.

There are 7 salaried and 22 hourly generating plant employees eligible for the severance package. The agreement affects only the generating plant employees and not employees in any of LMU’s other departments. LMU employs a total of 117 employees, including the 29 generating plant employees.

USB president Dan Slusser said the board is looking forward to working with the mayor and the city council to address LMU’s power needs for the future. Following the closure of the generating plant at the end of January, LMU now purchases all of the power it sells to its customers. The change does not affect service to LMU customers.

Cass County Online