Pierz full-time employees receive accolades and a raise

By Terry LehrkeNews Editor

With four full-time Pierz city employees receiving glowing reviews, the Council approved a move for each to the next step, a 4 percent increase.

As a part of its budget, City Administrator Anna Gruber indicated the employees’ monthly insurance stipend would increase from $750 to $800 for 2014.

The step increase plan was put into place beginning with January 2012, to alleviate what often became hard feelings between the Council and city employees during the negotiation process.

The insurance stipend is given because the city could not afford an insurance plan for its employees, although it had been researched a couple of years ago.

The four full-time city employees, Police Chief Eric Hanneken, City Administrator Anna Gruber, Golf Course Superintendent and Parks Supervisor Daniel Baert and Public Works Supervisor Bob Otremba were evaluated by the Council, Sept. 16.

“In my opinion they deserved a raise,” said Council Member Mike Menden. He said he didn’t necessarily agree with having to give a full 4 percent in the step plan.

“The Council talked and  it was either the step or nothing — all or nothing,” he said. Menden indicated the issue would be discussed by the Council during an Oct. 21 workshop.

“I don’t agree with a 4 percent increase, because no one gets a 4 percent increase,” he said.

“When I voted for the step increase, we told employees it was not guaranteed that every year this was going to happen,” said Menden. “Now, going through evaluations, I agree they need an increase, but at 4 percent it’s too much.”

Council Member Matt Bell said he felt every one of them was doing “a really superb job.”

“Employees that show up and go through the motions, don’t in my book, deserve a pay increase, but that’s far from what’s happening here,” said Bell. “We’re really efficient with the employees we have and they’re getting a lot of work done.”

Council Member Don Bujalski said in each case, the employees have “pretty much gone up and above what they would have to do in their normal job.”

In the Public Works Department, Bujalski pointed to the Safe Routes to School project and the Park Avenue/Robert Street construction project. “Bob put in the extra time, making sure it’s done the way Pierz needs it to be done,” he said. “It’s well worth a raise for what he’s been doing.”

Council Member Stephanie Fyten also felt the employees had gone above and beyond what is required.

In addition to the road projects, she pointed to Gruber taking over the treasurer duties when then-treasurer Maureen Watercott became ill and died a few months later.

All four council members noted that Baert’s employee hours at the golf course had been cut earlier in the year, and that even with a slow start in the spring, the course is doing well. “Daniel took on additional work, having his staffing changed around,” she said.

All commended the police chief, dealing withan increase of calls in the city, and working with students in the schools.

“Eric has the city being patrolled and safe; we have no major crime,” said Fyten. “People seem to be happy — they get a response when they call City Hall and they need to talk to Eric, Anna or Bob. Our employees are very good at taking care of what the public needs in a timely fashion.”

Bujalski said he didn’t get a lot of one-on-one time with Hanneken. “But with him, I see him working with these students and kids, going into the schools, doing education; I call him at 9 at night and ask him about something going on in town, and Eric really, through his staff that he has and himself, has made Pierz a safe place for kids to be out at night, and for adults to be out at night. He’s a very low profile type of person, but he is very out there in the public and watching what he does.”

Fyten said the city couldn’t ask for a better staff. “All of our staff is wonderful. It’s one of the best city staffs I’ve seen in all the years I’ve been here,” she said.

The step increases for each of the employees, based on 2,080 hours annually include Hanneken, Step 5 ($25.15 per hour) to Step 6 ($26.15), for an annual $54,392; Gruber, Step 7 ($26.66) to Step 8 ($27.73), an annual salary of $57,678.40; Otremba, Step 11 ($22.57) to Step 12 ($23.47), or $48,817.60 annually; and Baert, Step 10 ($21.30) to Step 11 ($22.15),  or $46,072 for the year.

The Council also voted to increase the pay of part-time police officers by $1 per hour. Fyten said the five officers take shifts that total about 25 hours per week. Hanneken patrols the remainder of the 70 or more hours Pierz has an officer on duty.

Pierz City Council Briefs
In other business Monday, the Pierz City Council:

• Learned final steps will be taken to vacate a portion of Oak Street near Holy Trinity School. A public hearing about the subject will be held Monday, Oct. 28, at 6:30 p.m.;

• Tabled a decision on an updated city policy regarding work done in a city right of way, which requires a permit to do so. Many residents do work in the city’s right of way and do not obtain the proper permit, mostly, said City Administrator Anna Gruber, because they don’t know they need to;

• Were reminded of the dedication of Maureen Watercott Drive on Edward Street at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 14; and

• Approved a permit for a 12-foot by 24-foot shed at a residence in the Pierz Mobile Home Park, provided the city’s inspector, David Barsody, gives his approval.

The next Pierz City Council meeting will be held Monday, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m. at City Hall. Prior to the regular meeting, a required public assessment hearing regarding the Park Avenue/Robert Street project will be held from 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. at City Hall.  Maureen Watercott Drive on Edward Street near Holy Trinity School will be dedicated that evening at 6:30 p.m.