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W’bago looks at big raise for administrator

By Staff | Jun 19, 2011

Austin Bleess

After lengthy discussion, the Winnebago City Council decided to wait on giving City Administrator Austin Bleess a raise. A final salary will be agreed upon July 12.

On Tuesday, Bleess was given his first-year review, receiving positive comments from all councilmembers.

“Starting two major construction projects shouldn’t be taken lightly,” Councilman Rick Johnson says. “I have also been impressed with his off the cuff knowledge of the budget.”

All of the council stressed the talented Bleess has at rolling up his sleeves and crunching numbers whenever necessary.

The only concern the City Council had regarding Bleess was his visibility to businesses and citizens of Winnebago.

“You have come a long way in six months,” Councilman Scott Robertson tells Bleess. “Continue to try and keep your people skills strong.”

After the review, Bleess decided to leave salary negotiations open to the public. The administrator proposed a raise from $48,925 to $61,486.

“Right now I am the third highest paid person in the city,” Bleess says. “I am supervising every city employee and I feel I can justify making $1 a year more than the highest paid employee.”

Bleess compared his current salary to the city administrators of Wells and Blue Earth who make between $70,000-$80,000 a year.

Many council members felt the 25 percent raise was too high for only working one year as the Winnebago City Administrator.

“I respectfully disagree (in giving the full raise),” Councilman Chris Ziegler says. “Longevity plays an important role and what you are proposing is too much.”

Bleess says his proposed raise is not about the numbers, but is instead about who has the most responsibility.

“With me on the line for everything that goes right or wrong, what’s that worth?” Bleess asked council members.

“We all agree that a raise is in order,” Robertson says. “It’s just the number that we can’t agree upon.”

Ziegler moved to table the salary negotiations until the July council meeting and Johnson seconded the motion.

“One way or another, I am still showing up for work tomorrow,” Bleess quips.

In other business; the council:

•Approved the purchase of 50 new 3/4-inch radio-read water meters and one three-inch meter. Total price for the meters is $11,041.59. The city is attempting to replace all water meters to the radio read variety.

After Tuesday’s purchase, 73 residential monitors will need to be upgraded to complete the project. Commercial meters will also need to be replaced for businesses on Main Street.

•Received a grant of $2,500 from CenterPoint Energy to purchase firefighter equipment.

•Reviewed police chief Bob Toland and gave him a 3 percent raise.

“Bob continues to do a great job managing his department and has been very helpful in pulling together everything we have done in preparing for the possible contract with Blue Earth,” Bleess says.

•Hired Bradley Schultz and Amber Engebretson as part time police officers.