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The Little Falls City Council heard several requests involving personnel Monday, during its first meeting of 2021. Not everyone was in agreement on the timing of when open jobs would be posted.

The first of these items was a request to approve a position description and pay grade, as well as permission to post, a newly-created accounting technician position within the city’s Administrative Department.

“We’ve talked about this several times during budget meetings,” said Human Resources Director MaKayla Payne. “We’ve talked about the needs of the additional staff person in the office, specifically to help with accounting functions just because of the demands that are on the staff right now.”

City staff members decided on what the functions of the position would be. Using a points system, they also determined it would be a Grade 6 position, meaning the new hire would get paid $53,662.13 per year, or $25.80 per hour.

Over the last six months, it was determined City Finance Director Lori Kasella averaged about 10 hours of work per week more than what she was scheduled at a bi-weekly cost to the city of $1,045 for overtime. Spread out over a full year, she would work about 520 hours more than the 2,080 that is expected. That alone would cost the city $27,170. The average bi-weekly overtime costs for administrative staff is $896; $23,299 over the course of an entire year. In all, the city would pay about $52,410 in overtime in 2021; about $1,252 less than paying a new Grade 6 employee who would, theoretically, take away the need for overtime.

Work-life balance, distribution of workload, retention, employee satisfaction and morale, increased performance and cross-training/segregation of duties were some of the purposes listed as to why adding another employee would be beneficial.

“This isn’t specifically to demands that we’re facing in the current time-frame with the pandemic situation and a lot of employees working from home,” said City Administrator Jon Radermacher. “This has been something that has been certainly noticed and looked at in our development since prior to the pandemic starting. We’ve recognized that we’re in need of additional administrative staff in our department.”

Radermacher also noted that later in the meeting his office would seek approval for hiring a new HR director. The idea would be to wait until that person is in place before hiring and filling the accounting technician position.

Council Member James Storlie questioned the timing of posting the positions now if hiring will not take place until the new HR director is in place.

“I guess I’m not understanding, if this is something that isn’t going to be posted and looked at until later on, I guess I don’t know why we’re dealing with it at this time,” Storlie said. “We’re hiring a new human resources director. There’s going to be some training and stuff going on there. Now, we’re going to sit on this for a few months. With posting jobs and with collective bargaining agreements with some of these — it might not be so much here, but there’s a couple other ones coming up. Jon, correct me if I’m wrong. I believe in the CBA that these people, that jobs are posted — that jobs are bid upon — and then they’re awarded according to seniority. Then there’s a period of time, a training or probationary period, where if those people don’t pan out for whatever reason, they can go back into their old position. If we’re going to do three, four, five of these and then at one time have somebody decide, ‘No. I’m going to go back to my old position.’ Now we run into a domino effect, especially if we start hiring people off the street. I could see if we’re going to keep these in-house and do the postings in-house and fill them out that way and wait until after everything’s done and ironed out and this trial period’s finished before we went out and hired people not within the system already.”

Radermacher explained that positions are posted internally and with the unions first. Typically, that lasts about one week before a two-week external posting period. The new HR director who was recommended could start on Jan. 19. He also noted that people who apply internally still have to meet the minimum requirements of the position.

“The minimum requirements for the position are what is necessary of anybody hiring into that role. It isn’t a time for somebody to gain that experience,” Radermacher said. “They have to have that prior to coming into that position.”

“I think that’s up to Mr. Radermacher to manage the staff,” said Mayor Greg Zylka. “I was elected to approve whether or not we want to post these or hire them, not to help him manage it.”

“I’m not looking at it from a management position,” Storlie said. “I’m looking at it from a financial position, and we were hired to be responsible with the people’s money.”

“That’s why we vote whether or not we want it posted or we want the position,” Zylka said. “We don’t tell him how to hire and do the managing. I think he’s aware of all that it takes in the process.”

“Mr. President, we’ve been talking about shortfalls in staff in that office,” said Council Member Leif Hanson. “Every year we get an audit that says we need to do a better job of segregation of duties on finance. Can we move forward, please?”

The motion to approve the job requirements, pay grade and to post the position passed 7-1, with Storlie casting the lone vote in dissent.

A short time later, the Council unanimously passed a recommendation to hire Anne Cribb as the city’s new human resources director. Five people applied for the position.

“While we didn’t have, I would say, a large number of overall candidates, we got some really exceptional and experienced candidates that fit our minimum requirements, as well as some of our preferred recommendations,” Radermacher said.

They also unanimously approved a recommendation from Public Works Director Greg Kimman to hire Oliver Bridges to the engineering aide position.

“Is this Oliver’s third position within the city?” Hanson asked.

“Yes, it is,” Kimman answered.

“He’s a good example of getting your foot in the door and working your way up,” Hanson said.

The Council also approved requests from Kimman to post an equipment operator position and a utility technician position within the Parks and Streets Department. Both were approved by votes of 7-1, with Storlie against in both cases.

“If you recall, the need that we have in the Street Department is really to do some of those additional tasks that the Council would like us to get done in a timely manner,” Kimman said. “Right now, we’re pretty well staffed to take care of our annual duties — the street sweeping, the snow plowing, the lawn mowing, that type of stuff. By adding an additional equipment operator, we’ll be able to do some of those other improvement projects that we normally can do, but we just don’t seem to have the staffing to do.”

Little Falls City Council Briefs:

In other business Monday, the Little Falls City Council:

• Discussed 2021 infrastructure improvement projects;

• Accepted eight donations totaling $26,510.69 for various city departments and projects;

• Authorized a request from the Engineering Department to purchase a 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 from Ranger Chevrolet in Hibbing for $25,896.40 to replace its 2007 Dodge Durango;

• Authorized a request from the Engineering Department to purchase an R12i GPS receiver from Frontier Precision in Waite Park for $25,910.10;

• Approved amendments to the Standard Operating Procedures of the Little Falls Fire Department;

• Approved a petition to extend city water and sewer services to 1702 Crestview Drive;

• Approved a resolution establishing 2021 non-union, full-time employee step structures and employer paid health insurance premiums and benefits;

• Approved an updated agreement with the Friends of Pine Grove Zoo for management of the Pine Grove Zoo and Park;

• Designated the Morrison County Record as the official newspaper of record for the city of Little Falls in 2021;

• Adopted 2021 membership fees at the Little Falls Golf Course;

• Approved a fire protection agreement with Pike Creek Township; and

• Authorized a labor agreement between the city of Little Falls and Law Enforcement Labor Services, Inc.

The next meeting of the Little Falls City Council is at 7 p.m., Monday, Jan. 18. It is a virtual meeting that can be accessed live via the city’s YouTube page.

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