Newton City Council members approved wage increases for city employees effective with the start of the next fiscal year on May 1.

City department heads will receive 85 cents more per hour while part-time employees will gain 50 cents more per hour. Part-time police employees will gain $2 more per hour and Ron Heltsley, a part-time officer, will receive $1.98 on his hourly rate of pay. Mayor Mark Bolander explained the police wage changes related to more competitive rates and no changes approved for several years.

The wage increases were approved by all council members present – Mayor Bolander, Gayle Glumac, David Brown, Robert Reisner, Eric Blake and Marlene Harris -- during the March 17 meeting except for Larry Brooks, who was absent.

Council members also approved changes in electric rates. Two changes were revenue neutral shifts of 2 cents for the PCA base to the Kilowatt Hour rate. Bolander said this will not cause an increase on the utility bill, just a 2-cent shift per KWH shift.

On amending the electric rates, the council approved a residential minimum charge of $8.19 per month for the first 40 KWHs used. A rate of $24.08 was approved commercial customers for the first 100 KWH used. The amendments also allowed for future rate increases in the future of 5 percent.

The city solid waste hauling franchise was renewed with Republic Services as recommended by the Sanitation Committee of the city council. Dave Brown said Republic provided the low bid and has offered fine service to the community.

The council agreed to support local organizations through the Dues and Donations distribution of funds. The city will divvy up $5,500 to help civic and service organizations as well as local school programs. The following applicants have received money ranging from $100 to $500: Jasper County Youth Theater, Jasper County Junior High STEAM Lab, Jasper County Unit 1 Music Department, Jasper County Youth Soccer, Newton Elementary fifth grade science, Jasper County Home Front, Jasper County Cancer Support, Newton Elementary fifth grade Language Arts, Newton Eagle Football Pride, Newton High School Post Prom, Saved by Grace Animal Rescue, Jasper County Honey Do Ministries, Strong Girls After School Program at Newton Elementary, Sunrise Youth Soccer, Jasper County Junior High Reading Rocks Program, Jasper County Junior High Student Council, Jasper County Youth B-ball, Limitless Life and Jasper County Association for Home and Community Education.

In other business, the council authorized paying a $500 fee for a Newton Police officer to attend a training camp from in coming days. The motion also included payment of eligible expenses.

A $500 utility deposit will be used to pay a customer’s debt to the city of Newton.

Council members heard reports from committees and heard the following information from Mayor Bolander:

• Leachman Lights in the Park is asking for any interested businesses, churches, families or groups, who would like to sponsor a lighted display to be in Peterson Park during the Christmas season later this year. Call Andre Leachman at (618) 783-1932, Debbie Leachman at (618) 843-3036 or the Tourism Office at (618) 783-7188.

• Officials from the Jasper Co. Heath Department, City government, the County and the school district have been meeting regularly about the coronavirus plans coming from state government and how to implement those plans here. The Mayor said Deb Riddle has done a great job coordinating all of it.

• Last August, the Council authorized $2,000 for trapping feral cats in the city. Only $525 has been used. The Mayor would like to reimburse Angie Martin for her expenses, because she has purchased traps and is doing the trapping. There is $1,474 that could be used to help Martin.

The council members met in closed session to discuss litigation and the purchase of property.

Due to the coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak, the April 7, 2020 Newton City Council Meeting has been canceled.