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Ice skating rink coming to Ottawa park

Ice-skating enthusiasts will have a new place to slip and slide this winter following the city of Ottawa's purchase of a portable ice skating rink.

According to Public Improvements Commissioner James Less, the new rink will be installed at Thornton Park in December if "temperatures are conducive for ice formation."

The portable rink was purchased from Nice Rink, of Genoa City, Wis., at a cost of $10,398.86.

Less explained during Tuesday's council meeting, "We (council members) are excited to provide this winter opportunity to our residents. This new rink was made possible by the council, the Ottawa Recreation Board and a few supporting sponsor donations."

Also during the meeting, commissioners were presented with a letter that explained a recent grievance filed by Ottawa Local 523 Firefighters concerning a recent change in the city's department work schedule from the current 48-hour shift with 96 hours off to the non-negotiated 24 hours on and 48 hours off.

The letter, signed by all department firefighters and paramedics, said, "The Union was told by the (city) administration that the proposed change to a 24-hour work schedule was necessary due to safety reasons, but this explanation did not include evidence, cause, nor justification."

The statement insisted the issue be handled in collective bargaining, "not by violating" the existing contract. The Union claimed the schedule change was made "without any regard to the negative implications" on the firefighters and their families. It told the council the "unilateral violation of the contract has brought morale to an all-time low and should not be implemented."

The union claims the 48-hour work schedule, unanimously approved by members in 2013, was a way that successfully implemented non-emergency transfer which raised revenue for the city. Firefighters contend the contracted schedule allowed for more continuous off-time to spend with their families.

Addressing the issue, Mayor Bob Eschbach said he understood the firefighters' position on the schedule change and promised he would discuss the matter further with commissioners.

Girl Scout Troop 1806 appeared before the council to present a donation of $250.50 and asked that the money be used toward the future installation of a water fountain in the city's Lincoln Douglas Park. Eschbach thanked the troop for their civic contribution and praised the group for its fundraising efforts.

In other business, the council approved:

An agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation for future resurfacing work on Route 23.

The rezoning of 1100 First Ave. to special use business district.

The final plat for Pinnacle Point at Heritage Harbor.

An agreement with the Illinois Growers & Vintner's Alliance for the 2019 Wine and Jazz Fest.

Commissioner Less said crews will continue collecting leaves from city neighborhoods for the remainder of November. Yard waste dumpsters on Jackson Street will remain available for city residents until Dec. 2.

Students sub for council members

Students, chosen by the Ottawa Kiwanis Club, sat in as substitutes for commissioners, mayor and other city officials during the regular Ottawa Council meeting Tuesday night.

The student "officials" included Ellen VanWiggeren taking over the meeting duties of Mayor Bob Eschbach; Totus Keely for Police Chief Brent Roalson; Maggie Jewett for Fire Chief Andrew Borkowski; Corinne Francis for Corporation Counsel (The Cantlin Law Firm); Cole Smelko for City Engineer David Noble; Megan Smelko for City Clerk Shelly Munks; Aislinn Aussem for Commissioner Dan Aussem; Karcin Hagi for Commissioner Tom Ganiere; Kealey Rock for Commissioner Wayne Eichelkraut and Kimberly Camacho-Perez for Commissioner James Less. Amber Danielson, who was scheduled to stand in for City Treasurer Donald Harris, was not present.

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