In future meetings, Powell City Council's operations committee will discuss three issues raised by Councilman Dan Wiencek.

In future meetings, Powell City Council's operations committee will discuss three issues raised by Councilman Dan Wiencek.

During last week's council discussion on the city's personnel manual, Wiencek said he would like to see the policy related to employee benefits changed to include coverage for nontraditional families.

The city's current personnel manual references "immediate family" as an employee's "spouse, children, parent or resident dependent," and makes no reference to live-in unmarried couples or partners, said Jeff Robinson, Powell information officer.

"The city should be considering making benefits available to family members regardless of how that family is composed," Wiencek said. "There are nontraditional families. There are members of our community that are in the gay and lesbian community and there are certainly members who choose to live together and not be married. I don't think it's the city's place to determine whether or not those relationships are appropriate."

The city could establish a domestic partner registry which would assist it in determining eligibility for benefits, he said.

"(The registry) has no legal bearing other than it gives people the opportunity to formalize the relationship and would give the city a way to recognize and reward any employees that might fall into that category," he said..

Councilman Don Grubbs disagreed, "On domestic partners, I agree with your statement it is not the city's place to determine whether it's accepted or not, but I come to a different conclusion. The status quo is based upon the larger community. I don't think it's the city's place to make social change. That's up to the larger group."

Wiencek said, "Civil rights often started with local regulations that were challenged all the way to the Supreme Court."

Another issue Wiencek raised was related to city employees' use of cell phones while driving.

Wiencek said he'd like the city to consider drafting an administrative policy that, "when appropriate, prohibits the use of cell phones when driving." Exceptions would be made for the safety department personnel, he said.

Employees could answer the phone, but pull the car over before commencing the conversation, he said, adding that many governments in the country are considering adopting such policy.

Wiencek also wanted to see a change in the allotted vacation days city employees receive.

Currently city employees receive two weeks of vacation when hired, until they reach five years of service, when they get three weeks of vacation. At 10 years of service, they receive four weeks of vacation.

Allowing employees to earn a day of vacation per year of service on top of the two weeks would be an incentive for retaining their service, Wiencek said.

"For every year of service, they gain a day," Wiencek said. "That's incentive for employees to stay longer. Five years is a long time to wait for a bump in your vacation."

Wiencek had recommended the change occur this year, but council decided to follow administrator Steve Lutz's recommendation of waiting until the next contract negotiations occur in three years.

Lutz said the city tries to keep its union and nonunion staff "even." He advised against changing the vacation policy for one group and not the other. He also advised against changing an already negotiated union contract.