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City Council votes to continue discussion of organizational study

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council voted Monday evening at a special meeting to continue discussing a consultant's recommendations for reorganizing city operations.

Council member Bruce DeBlieck asked if the final report on the organizational review by consultant Richard Fursman of Brimeyer Fursman of Maplewood would be referred to a committee or lay on the table.

City Administrator Charlene Stevens said the council decides how to move forward with the report.

Council members Audrey Nelsen and Denis Anderson said the issue was big enough to involve the entire council and the council should schedule another work session and come to some conclusions.

Nelsen offered a motion, seconded by Anderson and DeBlieck, to have another work session on the report, and the motion carried. Other council members present Monday were Ron Christianson, Rick Fagerlie, Jim Dokken and Tim Johnson. Steve Ahmann was absent.

In his final report, Fursman recommended an option for dealing with internal services. Fursman defines internal services as services primarily delivered by city employees to augment the efforts of services delivered to the public.

Fursman said he first addressed the need for hiring a city engineer in his preliminary report in May because the absence of an engineer is "causing so much pain in the city right now.''

The position has been held open for months until a decision is reached on the organizational study.

Fursman said the city desperately needs a city engineer and engineering technician. He said the city should fully staff the engineering department to where it will be functional or not have an engineering department at all.

The engineer would not be in charge of public works, as the position is now, but would become part of a six-member team that includes planning and zoning, wastewater treatment, public works, and facilities maintenance, all reporting to a community services director.

Christianson said he supports hiring an engineer and assistant engineer. He said the council budgeted for an engineer, and he said the department brings in revenue with a 15 percent fee on developments.

He also said the city engineer should continue to be in charge of public works. He said the system has worked in the past. He also said the city will continue to contract out some engineering services.

Fursman recommended funneling human resources duties from among the various departments into one HR position. Fursman said he saw no benefit to HR collaboration with other governmental entities because functions were not compatible.

Johnson said it seems like there's always a reason why collaboration was not possible.

"Wouldn't that suggest that as a long-term goal we should be looking at ways to standardize some functions or make them more compatible and eliminate some duplicate services?'' he asked.

Fursman said he explored collaboration possibilities with other agencies.

"If you were building it from scratch and you were under the same HR systems across the board, merging systems would be pretty simple to do. But we're still talking about the volume of work that an individual would be able to handle,'' he said.

Mayor Frank Yanish asked Fursman about a portion of the report that said the relationship between the mayor and city administrator is doing great harm to the organization and the reputation of the city.

Fursman suggested the council look at the structural capacity first.

"I really wanted to make this forward-looking.'' Fursman said. He said the issue raised by Yanish came from comments his team received. "It's not an interpretation. It's a reflection of what we were hearing,'' he said.

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