- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 30, 2016

OTTUMWA, Iowa (AP) - Wapello County supervisors have taken another step toward raising the minimum wage in the county to $10.10 an hour by 2019.

The board voted a second time Monday to advance the measure. A third and final vote is scheduled to occur Sept. 13, The Des Moines Register (https://dmreg.co/2bz2QFR ) reports.

Several people at Monday’s board meeting objected to the proposal, with many suggesting it would hurt county businesses.

Business owner Butch Annis said he can’t afford to hire employees at the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, let alone the proposed higher rates.

Connie Hammersley-Wilson, executive director of the Ottumwa Chamber of Commerce, said some full-time employees would become part-time employees for local businesses to afford the change. According to Hammersley-Wilson, some businesses don’t feel like this is the time or place for raising the minimum wage.

But Supervisor Steve Siegel said raising the minimum wage is the best way to see that the lowest-wage workers are paid fairly. Siegel said the minimum wage is not a perfect way of combating poverty, but it’s a good step. He estimated that the $10.10 rate would affect about 12 percent of the county’s 24,000 workers.

“To me no is not an option here, to say, ‘No, we’re not going to do this,’” Siegel said.

Wapello County’s poverty rate is third highest in Iowa. And at a little more than $21,900, the county’s per-capita income is the second-lowest in Iowa.

“We’re falling behind other counties,” Wapello Supervisor Greg Kenning said. “And one of the reasons is wages.”

The supervisors agreed they would prefer to see a national or statewide solution to the issue of minimum wage, rather than have to deal with it at the county level.

“I think the Legislature, the Iowa General Assembly, has kicked that can down the road,” Kenning said. “And it’s landed squarely on communities and counties.”

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