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Staffing in Wells debated

By Staff | Apr 16, 2017

Citizens of Wells may be waiting a little longer in line at City Hall.

Why? Wells City Hall is short on staff. After their previous deputy city clerk put in her two weeks notice almost a month ago, and now, along with a part-time office clerk putting in her two weeks, city administrator Robin Leslie is hoping to get a full staff again with the Wells City Council’s approval.

With the two positions not yet filled, the Wells City Council decided to tackle the two open positions’ job descriptions, which sparked a bit of debate between council members.

In a letter to the members of the City Council, Leslie and her remaining staff analyzed how best to fill the open position.

“Jennie (Kloos)’s title and job description would be changed to deputy city clerk/Finance specialist and she would receive a wage increase,” Leslie’s letter to the council reads. The “Deputy City Clerk” position that was held previously by Megan Boeck would be removed as well as the Accounting Clerk position that was held by Kloos would also be removed, according to Leslie.

Plus, there would also be an addition of a second full-time office specialist position. Leslie’s letter also explains the changes to titles, duties, wages, and not refilling the part-time office clerk position would create additional funds to cover city code enforcement duties once covered by the deputy city clerk position.

Leslie’s recommendation was to allow for a part-time police officer to work 10-20 hours per week, depending on the season, to address code enforcement only. This would potentially save the city between $3,300 to $12,000 depending on how many code enforcement hours are worked.

“If we shift the part-time hours to the Police Department, we would have some focused energy on code enforcement in the city,” Leslie informed the council.

The council discussed the available positions at length, tweaking and adjusting the positions as they saw fit, taking into consideration the rate of pay of the current staff and their duties along with the new duties that would be assigned that were laid out in the City Council packet.

Discussion arose during the conversation of the part time police officer assisting the city with code enforcement. A few members of the City Council were concerned whether 20 hours for code enforcement was excessive.

“I think 20 hours is way too high for a part time employee,” stated Mayor David Braun. And members of the council agreed.

“Carrying mail, I can walk half the town finished pretty quickly and that’s just walking,” said City Council member Brenda Weber. “So, on Friday I went around the whole residential area really slow, just glancing to see what would pop up as undesirable. It only took an hour and a half.”

Weber suggested the part-time position use the hours every other week instead of every week, cutting the hours, and the pay for the officer, in half.

“With the amount of paperwork also involved, code enforcement would easily take up 20 hours,” Leslie responded. “Consider each stop is about 20-30 minutes plus the paperwork that they would have to do, 20 hours gets eaten up fast.”

Weber also brought up concerns about the amount of time citizens have to respond to code violations, stating two days was not enough time for residents to comply with the city’s codes.

Leslie retorted, saying if there was any more slack given to citizens regarding code enforcement, the council had to decide if they wanted to make code enforcement a priority for the year at all.

Weber responded by stating she had further concerns about city officials walking onto residential private property to permit tree-trimming for code enforcement, stating she did not think it was appropriate for trees and bushes well into private property to be trimmed by the city.

“It’s a liability issue,” said Weber.

Both Leslie and the city of Wells street foreman Mike Pyzick stated Weber’s concern would be addressed.

With a back and forth between Weber and Leslie regarding the particulars about code enforcement, lawn mowing and tree-trimming, councilmember Crystal Dulas decided it was time to make a formal motion on the matter.

“This is just code enforcement, and we’re not going to continue to beat a dead horse over the matter,” said Dulas, who made a formal motion to approve the full-time office specialist positions, a 10-hour part time code enforcement position, and a 50 cent raise for Jenny Kloos.

The motion was passed.

The Wells City Council also:

Approved an easement for three rural properties in regards to the Wells Business Park. Property owned by the Miller family, north of Wells, and a property owned by the Voight family, just adjacent to the new business park, received easements for their underground water tile, while the City Council also approved a sewer easement for the Dallman property just on the south side of the new business park.

With the approval of the easements by the council, city engineer Travis Winter will be able to move forward with the business park project by bringing final plans to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

“Once the easements are okayed, we can get final approvement for the project,” said Winter.

Received an update on the progress of the liquor store and VFW agreement.

Leslie stated the city is currently working on a lease for the VFW to move into the unoccupied space next to the Wells Municipal Liquor store and the VFW’s insurance for the property is already in place. The city’s next step is to get a partition wall in place, and the VFW will be able to begin their own renovations.

Were informed of the citywide clean up day which is scheduled for May 20.

“We will not be taking any household garbage like we did last year,” said Leslie. “I think we will be more diligent about what refuse we will be taking.”

Leslie informed the council that the clean up day is for electronics, chemicals and other refuse that requires specific discarding.

Went into closed session regarding employee misconduct consideration for Jonathan Bathke. In closed session, the city council discussed an incident involving Bathke.

Back in open session, the City Council voted three to one, with Dulas voting against, to order an investigation of the incident.

The next regular Wells City Council meeting will be held on Monday, April 24 at 5 p.m.