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Willmar, Minn., City Council approves filling vacant operator position at treatment plant

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council approved a staff request Monday to fill a vacant operator position at the wastewater treatment plant.

The council's Labor Relations Committee met last week and recommended filling the treatment plant operator position. City staff requested the position be filled due to a retirement.

City staff had also requested permission during the committee meeting to fill a vacant appraiser position and a vacant engineering technician position.

However, the committee voted to recommend only filling the operator position after Mayor Frank Yanish said he would not support filling all three positions.

The committee took no action on filling the other two positions, but asked Stevens to once again contact Kandiyohi County to discuss consolidation of the city and county appraising departments and to gather additional information about privatizing the services of the engineering technician position.

In other business during a meeting that stretched past 10 p.m., the council defeated a Labor Committee recommendation to accept a proposal from Springsted Inc. of St. Paul to perform an organizational study for the city in the amount of $17,500 plus $1,250 in expenses.

City Administrator Charlene Stevens had obtained the study proposal from David Unmacht, Springsted senior vice president and consultant, to conduct the study. She obtained the proposal based upon a Labor Committee request and based on organizational assessments performed by Springsted at the Municipal Utilities and Kandiyohi County.

The study would have recommended an organizational structure; assessed the workplace culture; provided observations and opportunities for intergovernmental relations; assessed customer service; and made recommendations on current business and process practices.

Opponents said the funds to pay for the study should be used for other purposes such as repairing streets. Also, Springsted's ability to provide an objective assessment was questioned because Springsted, as city financial advisor, has had a long-term business relationship with the city.

Supporters of the study cited Springsted's familiarity with the city as well as with the utility and the county as a reason for hiring the firm, and supporters said they saw value in recommendations that might suggest doing things differently.

Also, the council approved a motion by Labor Committee Chair Steve Ahmann to have the mayor appoint one or two council members to the city's labor contract negotiating team of city administrator and labor attorney.

Supporters of the motion said council members should be part of the negotiating team. Opponents said policymakers should not be taking part in negotiations.

The Labor Committee had last week discussed the issue of adding council members to the negotiating team. Two citizens had spoken at the committee in favor of increased council member participation.

The committee had decided not to make a recommendation but wait until August or September to discuss the issue at a council meeting when all members are present.

But Ahmann, after reporting his committee's discussion items, made a motion as long as everyone was present to add council members to the team.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150