By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
In April, the Pierz City Council approved 3-2 to put Golf Course Superintendent Daniel Baert on a salary and to make the assistant superintendent position held by Zachary Baert, full-time seasonal. The idea was to save the city money.
As a full-time seasonal position, the assistant superintendent would not receive benefits such as Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), a $750 per month insurance stipend and vacation and sick pay as in the past. The Council also voted to allow overtime hours for this position only if they were approved by a council person. During the off-season, the employee could collect unemployment insurance.
Council Members Matt Bell and Don Bujalski and Mayor Toby Egan voted “yes” to the changes and Council Members Stephanie Fyten and Mike Menden voted no at the time.
The subject again came before the Council Monday, when Daniel reported during the week prior to open the golf course, he put in 60 1/2 hours and Zachary put in 53.
Although Bell and Egan thought the directive for no overtime hours had been clear, there was some confusion.
Daniel told the Council he welcomed anyone to come to golf course to see what needed to be done, especially to see the work required to open the course for the season.
The college-aged part-time workers are not available this early in the season, necessitating the work be done by Daniel and Zachary.
The question also remained as to whether Zachary had chosen to accept the position with the changes voted on in April.
City Administrator Anna Gruber said after the April 25 meeting, there were still questions as to whether an insurance stipend would be offered and a bank of overtime hours available for use.
Daniel said that while some numbers were talked about, they were not clear.
He said the two positions averaged 267 overtime hours each over the past couple of years. He felt that whittling overtime hours down to 144 – 150 for the assistant supervisor position would be the minimal amount.
Egan said he was thinking more of 80 hours to be used only when part-time help was not available.
Menden said he understood that a bank of overtime hours was needed for opening and closing the course for the season.
Also noted was Zachary’s request for 1 1/2 weeks of vacation time and Menden said that after the April 25 negotiations, it was unclear as to whether any insurance stipend would be offered.
Egan suggested paying the actual cost of Zachary’s insurance over the course of the months he was working.
“I don’t want to sound cruel or mean, but when we look at the city’s positions, we need to keep key positions in the city,” Egan said. He said key positions were the city administrator, public works supervisor, golf course superintendent and the police chief.
Egan said he doubted whether the city would save any money adding overtime hours, vacation and an insurance stipend.
Daniel said he wasn’t sure the city would save money in changing the position to full-time seasonal, calling it an “experimental thing.”
He said he understood the Council was going to “tweak things” after the vote in April. Daniel felt the tweaking needed to be done in November, “Not when we’re trying to fire up the golf course,” he said.
Egan said it wasn’t a good decision to go halfway in defining a full-time seasonal position and then offering benefits and overtime.
After more discussion, Egan said the Council would not get into an open negotiation. “I’m sick of hearing it,” he said. “I’m sick of debating it. It gets rehashed and rehashed.”
Bell reiterated his position that the full-time seasonal position should include no insurance or vacation, but that a bank of overtime hours could be allowed, due to variables involved in opening and closing the course.
Fyten noted that Zachary had not even accepted the position as amended and wanted to know whether the city would need to post for the job.
Bujalski said that since Zachary had been a valued employee for nearly nine years, the Council should offer something for the first year of the amended position, like vacation time.
Menden moved to set the assistant golf course superintendent position at the current $16.64 an hour, with a bank of 144 overtime hours, an insurance stipend of $750 per month for seven months and 1 1/2 weeks of vacation. Fyten seconded, and the motion passed 3-2. Bell and Egan voted no.
Zachary accepted the terms of the position Tuesday.
Pierz City Council Briefs
Other business conducted by the Pierz City Council Monday, included:
• Approving a conditional use permit for Chris Hoheisel to change the zoning on three lots in Industrial Park from industrial to commercial, for car repair/sales business. The Council also approved the Economic Development Authority’s recommendation to loan Hoheisel $18,000 at 1.60 percent for a five-year term The funds are taken from the city’s revolving fund used to help businesses get started. Hoheisel will pay $6,000 for two lot assessments and $2,000 for a water and sewer access hook-up;
• Approved the sale of bonds for the Robert Street/Park Avenue improvement project, in the amount of $348,000 at a rate of 2.45 percent. The schedule has the bonds being paid off by Feb. 1, 2024;
• Approved hiring McKenzie Gruber as part-time help in the Public Works Department for two – three days per week;
• Learned that Crow Wing Power will no longer provide electrical service work for the city effective Dec. 31, 2014;
• Learned it will cost the city $3,000 to move a utility pole near the fire hall and food shelf to the south to prevent the likelihood vehicles will back into it; and
• Learned utility removal had taken place for the Robert Street/Park Avenue project and that temporary water had been set up for residents along the project.
The Council’s next meeting is Monday, May 27, at 7 p.m., at City Hall.