Wapello County Courthouse

OTTUMWA — When Wapello County’s minimum wage raises Jan. 1, most of the towns in the county, including the largest, will not be affected. Some incorporated areas of the county have passed resolutions to affirm Iowa’s minimum wage and to reject the county’s wage ordinance.

Beginning Jan. 1, minimum wage in Wapello County raises to $8.20 per hour for non-tipped employees and $4.92 for tipped employees. The minimum wage will increase to $9.15 and $5.49 in 2018 and to $10.10 and $6.06 in 2019.

The Wapello County ordinance applies to businesses in the unincorporated areas of Wapello County and within any municipality that has not adopted a conflicting ordinance. Several cities have passed such resolutions.

Earlier this month Ottumwa’s city council passed an ordinance to opt out of the county’s minimum wage hike. The council was split on the issue, approving the resolution by 3 votes to 2.

Agency’s city council also voted not to follow the county ordinance. The decision was unanimous, said Agency Mayor Kevin Snyder.

Snyder said the consensus in Agency is that the minimum wage should be set at the state level. “We’re a small town,” said Snyder. “We have small businesses. It could be detrimental to some of them.

“And also, we all believe that you start raising minimum wage and it’s the middle class that loses, and Agency is a middle class town.”

At its Dec. 8 meeting, Agency’s city council voted “to approve ordinance 225 establishing the minimum hourly wage to be the same as the minimum wage adopted by the state of Iowa and establishing the inapplicability of the Wapello County minimum wage ordinance to the people and businesses within the corporate limits of the city of Agency,” according to minutes of the meeting.

Eddyville plans to reject the Wapello County ordinance at a special city council meeting Friday at 8:30 a.m. “There are two resolutions,” said Eddyville City Clerk Katie Smith. “One to opt out, and a resolution to waive the second and third readings.”

Eddyville stretches into parts of three counties. Changing the minimum wage in part of the town could cause problems according to Eddyville Mayor John Simmers. “We might have a little dispute if we [accept] it,” Simmers said. “If some [businesses] have to pay it and some don’t there would probably be some complaining.”

Eddyville’s ordinance reaffirms the minimum wage requirements set forth in Iowa Code Chapter 91D and rejects the Wapello County ordinance deviating from the provisions of that Chapter of code which sets the state’s minimum wage at $7.25.

Eldon’s City Council met in special session last week and passed a similar ordinance affirming the state’s minimum wage and rejecting the Wapello County wage ordinance. The council voted to waive the second and third readings in passing the ordinance.

Kirkville, however, won’t be making an issue of the ordinance. The city won’t be affected by it. “In Kirkville, the only businesses they have are self-employed people,” said Jane Underwood, Kirkville’s city clerk. “So the mayor says we’ll probably go along with what the majority of Wapello County does.”

Iowa’ minimum wage of $7.25 went into effect Jan. 1, 2008. In 2015 Johnson County raised its minimum wage, starting a domino effect. Linn County and Wapello County approved wage hikes in September. Polk County’s higher minimum wage will go into effect in April.

Reporter Winona Whitaker can be contacted at wwhitaker@ottumwacourier.com and followed on Twitter @courierwinona.

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