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Employee raises likely

By Staff | Sep 5, 2014

Debate on city employee wages dominated discussion of the 2015 preliminary budget at Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Rugby City Council.

After three motions failed, a fourth was approved by a 4-3 vote to give public works and city hall employees a $2 per hour merit increase – on top of a 2.5 percent cost of living increase, 1 percent Public Employee Retirement System (NDPERS) increase and $0.35 per hour service credit increase. The motion also included keeping Police Chief John Rose’s proposed increases of more than $2 per hour per police officer position. The council requested that a review process be developed for all city employees.

Council members Dave Bednarz (Ward 2), Jim Hoffert (Ward 3) and Joel Berg (Ward 3) voted against the motion.

The finance committee’s original proposal had employees outside of public safety receiving a $1 per hour merit increase.

Ward 4 Council Member Terry Wentz, the public works committee chairman, urged the council to consider the amount of work the public works employees do with four employees manning the streets and water plant. Wentz emphasized savings to the city because of work done by the department and asked the council to consider the dangerous work involved, especially in manholes during the winter.

“They have kids in our schools, they’re from Rugby, they bust their butts and we need to keep these guys,” Wentz said.

Finance committee members Bednarz and Hoffert expressed support for the employees, but emphasized that their recommendation was based on a schedule increase submitted by Rose to retain police officers.

“We value all city employees,” Hoffert said. “It’s not a queastion and kind of a dumb statement because, of course, we do.”

They said their recommendation for public works employee wages was based on remaining competitive with similar-sized cities in the state and a recommendation was not submitted by the public works department for preliminary budget meetings.

Bednarz stated that he does not believe in the same across-the-board raises, saying raises should be based on performance.

“I?don’t believe everyone is equal,” he said. “You have over-achievers and under-achievers. … I?ain’t here to run down city workers, but they need to be trained and supervised better.”

Berg said a peformance review is a must. The pair refuted assertions that money was being saved on projects the city does itself. Bednarz cited a city council survey from eight years ago asserting the city was better off having outside contractors do much of the work.

Lotvedt stated that without a review process in place, an even increase across the board was most appropriate.

Rugby resident Jackie Albrecht stated the opinion that anyone receiving a $2 raise should have a review.

“Any business around town does that and the city should too,” she said.

Ward 4 Council Member Craig Zachmeier said he would like to see a full-family health insurance plan offered to better recruit and retain city employees.

Mayor Arland Geiszler reminded the council that the budget was still in the preliminary stage and nothing was finalized. The board approved the preliminary budget following the wage increase approval. Hoffert and Berg voted against the preliminary budget.

Other budget items discussed

The 2015 preliminary budget has a total increase of roughly $30,000 more than the 2014 budget to ???????. The proposal is roughly $9,000 more than the 2013 budget.

The council approved a public hearing on the budget for Sept. 29 at 7 p.m.

Wentz requested consideration in the budget for money to add on to the public works shop. He requested council members stop by the shop to gain a better understanding of the space. Three machines, including the street sweeper, will likely have to remain outside during the winter. Previous space in park board buildings is no longer available.

Hoffert said storage space will likely be available at the current fire hall in about six months, once the fire department moves to its new hall.

Lotvedt requested consideration of old fire hall renovations for public meetings, in order to better accommodate persons with disabilities. Hoffert stated that the Otter Tail building is available for meetings at little to no cost and suggested borrowing money on occassion for major improvements and remodeling.

“The biggest reason we put armory floor money in was in response to citizens’ requests that you have to do something with that floor,” Hoffert said. “I haven’t heard from citizens that we have to do something about city hall.”

The mayor requested an increase in budgeting for employee training.

BNSF, rural water agreements approved

The council approved a drainage rights agreement with Burlington Northern Santa Fe. The liability clause of the agreement states: “BNSF shall indemnify and hold the City harmless from any and all liability (by providing financial protection against possible loss, damage, liablity, and litigation or reimburse after loss by paying compensation to third parties for loss, damage, or liability incurred) from contaminants, which may have accidently or incidentally entered the free flow of water from BNSF property into the City’s Storm Drain System taking place pursuant to the rights granted in this Agreement, except to the extent of any such liability is caused or contributed to by the City.”

The city will have emergency access to close the BNSF connection to the storm drain system.

The council also approved providing an additional 50 acre-feet of water per year to All Seasons Water Users District. The increase means the city will increase its total amount of water provided to ASWUD (rural water) to 200 acre-feet per year.

The State Water Commission also agreed to release 40 acre-feet per year from abeyance. The agreement approves releasing 20 acre-feet from that to ASWUD.

Ward 1 Council Member Neil Lotvedt informed the council that USDA still has to approve the changes.

City calling for water plant improvement bids

The council approved a motion to call for bids on an $849,000 project to improve the city’s water-filtration system. Ward 4 Council Member and public works committee chairman Wentz said about $200,000 will be available from Northwest Area Water Supply. Wentz said the project is an indoor task and work can possibly be done during the winter.

“Could we get by another year, probably,” Wentz said. “Could we get by two or three years, probably not.”

A similar project was last done 14 years ago.

Committee reports

The public safety committee report states that officer Cody Miller, who was hired in May, resigned as of Aug. 19. The traffic violation count is down since Miller’s resignation. The report said that drug activity in the city is still high.

The report states that officer Jeremy Monroe was placed on probation for an incident at the hospital.

The report states that painting and school zone signs are need around Head Start and correct speed signs are need on 1st Street NE where the 25 mph and 40 mph zones meet. A request was made to have snow removed further west of Ely Elementary to allow for more parking near the school

The finance committee report states that the infrastructure fund is doing well, but approximately $1 million will be used in 2016 or 2017 to chip seal streets. Lotvedt stressed the importance of this project because engineers recommended it about seven years after the 2009 city street improvements.

The public works committee report states that boring or diggin can be used when the 15th Street SW storm sewer project is extended. Temperature is an issue, according to the report, and more work will be done in the spring. Supervisor Rick Larson is getting a book for employees needing to obtain a CDLs. Fall projects include changing speed signage on 1st Street NE, correcting heights of stop signs and removing diseased trees.

The building and property committee report includes a request for the ordinance committee to look into guidelines for steel roofs in the city.

Charity permit approval on hold

Zachmeier and Lotvedt recommended tabling approval of a charity local permit requested by Randi Heisler. The council members requested more information about Soteni, a Cincinnati-based non profit that raises money for AIDS research in Africa.

Old business discussed

Hoffert requested another look at the nuisance ordinance as items in many alleys and backyards will continue to present nuisances with winter coming.

“I walked through the alleys and it looks sad,” Hoffert said. “We can do better than what a lot of our backyards look like. We need an ordinance our police can enforce.”

Rugby resident Jackie Albrecht requested an update on 1st Street drainage improvements. Lotvedt informed her that a 2014 Storm Water Study was just received and the council will be reviewing that.

Zachmeier informed the council that the police department is handling complaints about the Kramer property in the 400 block of 2nd Street SW.

New business discussed

The council approved a motion to share costs with the Pierce County on leadership training spearheaded by Mike Graner, jail administrator. A group from Fargo will conduct the seminar, which will cost about $2,000. The mayor said there is money in the budget for training and recommended employees of public safety, public works and city hall attend.

Elected officials

ordinance approved

The council approved a second and final reading of Ordinance No. 391, pertaining to elected officials.

New language includes: “The salary approved by the council for the mayor shall only be reviewable during budget process of even numbered years with any changes in salary taking effect on January 1 of the following year.”

Similar language also applies to salaries of council members.

Other News

The council approved its minutes from the special meeting on July 30 and the regular meeting on Aug. 4. Also approved were the bills and financial statements and the municipal judge’s report for August.

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