Pierz Council votes 3-2 to increase administrator’s salary by 12 percent

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
terry.lehrke@mcrecord.com

The Pierz City Council voted 3-2, Feb. 3, following a closed meeting, to increase Pierz City Administrator Anna Gruber’s salary by 12 percent.

The increase was due in part to the Minnesota Pay Equity Management System, which requires male and female employees who work comparable jobs, to make comparable wages.

In addition, Gruber, who has been with the city for nearly three years, was offered another position at a higher rate of pay than Pierz offered, as well as insurance benefits, which Pierz does not offer. Pierz offers its full-time employees a $750 per month insurance stipend, instead.

In completing the report for the Minnesota Pay Equity Management System, it was found that Gruber’s job is comparable with that of the police chief. Her wage, currently at step 4 – $23.70 per hour based on 2,080 hours of work per year ($49,296), was about 4 percent less than what newly-hired Police Chief Eric Hanneken is earning at step 4 – $24.18 per hour based on 2,080 hours per year ($50,294).

The pay scale was implemented late last year, after employee negotiations and a 6 percent pay increase for full-time employees. It was designed to prevent the need for negotiations, which at the time were said to be “stressful” and offer employees goals, but did not necessarily provide a guaranteed increase.

At its meeting following the Feb. 3 closed meeting, Council Member Mary Korf moved to approve step 5 on the pay scale for Gruber – $24.65 per hour ($51,272), to satisfy the Minnesota Pay Equity Management System. That motion received a second from Council Member Adrian Welle, but failed without support from Mayor Toby Egan and Council Members Mike Menden and Stephanie Fyten.

Welle said he felt the move to step 5 to satisfy the pay equity requirement was sufficient.

Korf and Welle voted no, when Menden moved to approve Gruber’s pay at step 7 – $26.66 per hour ($55,452.80). This motion passed 3-2, as Egan and Fyten voted in favor. One stipulation added, was that Gruber would receive no wage increase in 2013.

Menden said the Council knew Gruber had been offered another position in Annandale, a bigger city, and that the city of Pierz could not match it. Negotiations were held during the Feb. 3 closed meeting.

Menden said although it’s added cost to the city’s budget, it costs money to advertise for another city administrator, conduct interviews and then training. He figured that process costs the city about $5,000.

Added to that, Menden said during his eight-year term as mayor that ended when Egan was elected, three city administrators were hired by the city, and “stuff got lost in the cracks between administrators.”

“You can’t put a price tag on what gets lost in the cracks,” he said.

Menden said that while the increase was not budgeted for, the city isn’t broke and some shifting will take place to cover the additional cost.

Pierz City Council Briefs

In other business at Monday’s meeting, the Pierz City Council:

• Approved an increase in the city’s contribution to the Pierz Fire Department Relief Association from $250 per firefighter per year, to $350 per firefighter per year. The volunteer fire department has 26 members, making the city’s contribution $9,100. Mayor Toby Egan and Council Member Mike Menden abstained from the vote, as both are volunteer firefighters.

In addition, the Council learned that Pierz Fire Chief Brian Boser was working to have firefighters respond to first response calls, such as car accidents, as many firefighters are first responders, and the firefighters are often called on for assistance such as traffic control.

• Decided to get the $221.21 in the “library fund” off the books. The funds were donated when the city was considering building a new library. Attempts will be made to contact the individual contributors to refund the money. If contributors do not want their money back, or cannot be located, the fund will be rolled over into the general fund. The request to do so was made by the city’s auditing firm;

• Asked City Administrator Anna Gruber to consult with David Drown regarding tax increment financing questions the city’s auditing firm has. The city’s audit is expected to be presented at the Council’s March 12 meeting;

• Learned the city will have to increase its electric rates by 6 percent, to residents, due to a 6 – 7 percent increase from Minnesota Power, coming in July. This will result in an estimated $3 increase for residential users and $16 per month increase for business owners;

• Approved the city’s annual agreement with the Morrison County Animal Humane Society for stray animals picked up within the city;

• Learned Gruber had finished cleaning the basement in city hall, saving historic documents and getting rid of unnecessary items;

• Learned Gruber and Police Chief Eric Hanneken will switch offices at City Hall; and

• Learned the front door of the Pierz Public Library isn’t working correctly and people are having to use the back door to gain access, leaving just one way in and out of the building. Council Member Mike Menden agreed to contact building owners Dick and Don Bujalski about the issue. The city pays $750 per month in rent for the library and as it is a public building, proper ingress and egress is necessary. Menden was directed to give the building owners until Feb. 17 to fix the problem, or the city would fix the problem and subtract the costs from the rent. The city will stay in contact with the building owners about any steps it takes to alleviate the problem.

The Pierz City Council will next meet at 7 p.m., Monday, March 12, at City Hall.

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