Pierz Council to review personnel policy as it looks to save on overtime

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

The Pierz City Council plans to review its personnel policy, specifically in the area of overtime hours for full-time city staff who are not salaried.

The Council will look at whether the city would benefit from designating its golf course and parks area as a recreational business.

A recreational business is one that operates for less than seven months of the year

Doing this would allow the city to change the status of a currently full-time employee at the complex to a full-time seasonal employee.

Currently, all full-time city staff members who are not salaried, are allowed to accrue up to 480 hours of compensatory time or “comp time” if they work more than 40 hours in one week.

Of specific concern to the Council are the employees who work in a seasonal capacity, such as those full-time employees at the golf course and park complex. These include Golf Course and Parks Supervisor Daniel Baert and Assistant Golf Course Superintendent Zach Baert, who put in many overtime hours over the summer months.

Any comp time accrued because of working a work week that is more than 40 hours, is accrued at time and a half, or overtime.

For instance, if an employee works eight hours of overtime, they receive 12 hours of comp time.

The Pierz Parks area includes a nine-hole golf course, a golf clubhouse, a campground facility that accommodates 38 regular camping spots and 11 seasonal spots, two park shelters, a playground area and swimming hole.

During the summer months, the area is alive with activity as golfers, campers, party planners and residents make use of the facilities seven days a week.

Not so much during the winter months, although residents have been permitted to groom a cross country ski trail on the course themselves.

In addition to Daniel and Zach, two part-time grounds crew members are hired for the golfing season, and four or five part-time clubhouse workers who cook, serve, make reservations and answer the phones.

Daniel takes care of the administration side of the clubhouse, the campgrounds and shelters, in addition to his superintendent duties. His assistant, Zach, said Daniel, is the chief mechanic at the course, keeping the equipment running. “We mow 50 – 60 acres every single day,” said Daniel. “We need to keep up the machinery when it breaks.”

The facilities are open seven days a week typically beginning in mid-April to the end of October, weather permitting. Sometimes it opens a bit earlier, sometimes a bit later.

Several years ago, before the current Council, it was decided employees could accrue up to 480 hours (12 weeks) of comp time.

Those employees who work their hours during the summer would use that comp time to get a paycheck through the rest of the year, in addition to using vacation time banked.

The Baerts also sometimes work reading meters or helping with snow removal in the winter.

Initially, the Council at the time set up the system to avoid paying unemployment to those who could be deemed seasonal employees, while simultaneously offering assistance in the Public Works Department.

These employees also receive the same benefits as the other employees who work 52 weeks a year — vacation, sick time, the comp time, holiday pay, Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) and a $700 per month insurance stipend.

While the Council disagreed during a March 21 work session as to whether employees who do not work the entire year should be categorized differently than those who work 52 weeks a year, members felt it was time to tweak the policy.

Possible changes could include limiting the amount of overtime and requiring an employee to ask for permission before putting in overtime, as well as lowering the number of maximum hours allowed for comp time.

Council Members Matt Bell and Don Bujalski, both business owners, noted that another person could be hired part-time and paid for with the overtime if there was that much work and that a lot of overtime could mean burn-out for the employee.

Making an employee seasonal would also save the city money in paying benefits.

Council Member Stephanie Fyten argued that the two worked holidays and weekends during the time of the year most people want to take vacations.

For the past several years, the city has taken control of running the clubhouse and campgrounds instead of hiring a person who worked on commission.

The city’s audit showed the golf course/campgrounds has been making steady progress in the profit area, this year reporting a profit margin of $23,653.

“We’re always looking at things to do to try to improve our business to make it profitable,” said Mayor Toby Egan. “It’s a fine line to make it more profitable and not actually hurt the business.”

While the Council felt it was too late to make any changes for this year, it decided to hold a special meeting Thursday, April 11, at 5:30 p.m. to review the personnel policy.