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Council panel continues negotiating labor contracts

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council's Labor Relations Committee continues to negotiate two-year contracts with city employee labor groups for 2011 and 2012. Employees have been working without contracts since the previous agreements expired in 2010.

The committee held a 35-minute closed session Wednesday evening to discuss negotiations strategy but the committee did not consider any contracts after the meeting reopened, according to City Administrator Charlene Stevens.

In other business, the committee asked Stevens to provide more information on filling a vacant custodial position with a working maintenance supervisor custodian. The city has three custodial positions but one is currently vacant and the intent to fill the vacant position with an individual who would have supervisory authority in addition to being a working custodian.

Stevens told the committee that the city has 10 buildings with 65,000 square feet, of which eight are maintained by custodial staff. The city previously had custodial staff providing 160 hours of maintenance, which has been reduced to 80 hours with the current vacancy.

She said 120 hours are needed to adequately maintain facilities and she requested the committee consider authorizing staff to fill the vacancy with a Grade 6 maintenance supervisor position.

She said the position would perform all custodial services with primary responsibility for the airport, Community Center and Public Works facilities, and serve as project manager for all preventive maintenance and major projects such as roofs, heating and ventilation, and daily custodial schedules.

Committee member Tim Johnson asked Stevens to clarify the duties and skill level of Grade 3 and Grade 4 custodial positions. A motion was offered to fill the vacancy with a Grade 3 level position, but the motion failed on a 2-2 vote and Stevens was asked to provide more information on contracting for custodial services and on the Grade 3 position.

In other action, the committee voted to update the city's credit policy, under which the city administrator and department heads use city credit cards to pay for conferences and travel expenses and professional association dues.

Stevens said the update was needed to reflect use of credit cards for online payments and purchases. She said the limits on transaction amounts have not changed and that department heads and city administrator are still accountable and responsible for card use.

The committee's recommendations will be considered by the City Council at 7 p.m. Monday in the chambers at the Municipal Utilities Building, 700 Litchfield Ave. S.W.

The Finance Committee will recommend the council appropriate $4,516 from the storm water fund to pay for development of a rain garden at the corner of First Street and Ella Avenue North. The rain garden was recommended by the Storm Water Task Force. The work was done by Stacy's Landscaping of Willmar.

Also, the Finance Committee will recommend the council approve a fund transfer of $2,000 to pay for improvements to the Lions Shelter at Robbins Island and transfer of $5,000 to pay for new lights at Hilltop Park skating rink.

The Community Development Committee will recommend the council approve a $28,350 contract with Cornerstone Construction of Willmar to pay for exterior and roof weatherization improvements at the old airport terminal.

The Federal Aviation Administration is requiring the work as part of the pending release of the former airport land to prevent further deterioration of the building, which has been federally declared historically significant.

Cornerstone submitted the lowest of two quotes received by city staff. Due to the lateness of the season, some of the work has already been done, said Bruce Peterson, director of city planning and development services.

In other business, the council will consider a request from the Willmar Housing and Redevelopment Authority to support the HRA's pre-application submission for $800,000 from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

The money would support rehabilitation of owner-occupied homes, renter-occupied housing, and downtown commercial property. In addition, the funds would support rehabilitation of owner-occupied homes in Raymond.

This is Willmar HRA's third such funding request. In 2007, Willmar and Atwater received money to rehab 20 owner-occupied homes. In 2009, Willmar and Pennock received $814,790 to rehab 20 owner-occupied homes and 11 downtown Willmar businesses.

Also, the council will receive comments from the public during the open forum and will hold a public hearing on amending the Eagle Lake Sanitary Sewer District sewer rates.

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