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No salary hike for top city officials and dept. heads

WILLMAR -- There will be no cost-of-living salary increases for top city officials, department heads, first-line supervisors and confidential employees in 2010, the Willmar City Council has decided.

The council voted Monday to extend the current terms and conditions of the employment agreements of City Administrator Michael Schmit, City Attorney Rich Ronning and number of other city employees.

The extension was recommended by the council's Finance Committee. The recommendation, which includes no change in benefits, was adopted without much discussion.

Council member Bruce DeBlieck asked if the committee's action applied to other subdivisions of the city such as Rice Memorial Hospital and Willmar Municipal Utilities.

Committee Chairman Steve Ahmann said Rice is almost finished with its contract negotiations. He said the city is still negotiating with the unions that represent the Public Works Department and Police Department. He thanked city staff for understanding the economic situation.

In an interview, Ahmann said the committee had been discussing the issue for much of the year.

He said it was always the thought of himself and committee members "that we have a situation here that is kind of unique. It's not the status quo economic times.''

He said the city is facing reductions in state Local Government Aid in 2010 and 2011. The outcome will be based on sales tax revenue and the overall economy of the state, he said.

"We're financially strapped and we're trying to do more with less,'' he said. "We're trying to hold the line on spending and not increase taxes ... We're trying to get by and make do. Hopefully this whole thing will turn around.''

Ahmann said the city has dedicated employees and is fortunate to have first-line supervisors that understand the situation the city is facing. He said the council and the mayor are trying to maintain the same level of service that citizens have been accustomed to without raising taxes.

"It's always a challenge every year. I'm just glad we have understanding staff that realize that it's just not there,'' he said.

In other business, the council voted 7-0 to approve the recommendation of the Community Development Committee to declare the former Mahanaim Assamblea de Dios church at Seventh Street and Litchfield Avenue Southwest unsafe.

Along with approving the declaration, the council voted to refer the matter to City Attorney Rich Ronning to begin legal proceedings to have the building demolished.

Council member Doug Reese, a member of First Covenant Church, which built the church in 1921, said he remembers moving out of the building to the present location 30 years ago. He was saddened by the deteriorated condition of the old building and abstained from voting.

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