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Willmar, Minn., City Council hires consultant for organizational study

WILLMAR — The Willmar City Council voted Monday to hire Brimeyer-Fursman of Maplewood to study the city’s organizational structure. The study will address future concerns and position the city for effective decision-making and action.

The firm was recommended by the Labor Relations Committee at a cost of $22,500 plus travel expenses. The Moving Willmar Forward group has offered to contribute $5,000 toward the cost.

The council had earlier authorized the organizational study and approved issuing requests for proposals from firms interested in performing the study.

City Administrator Charlene Stevens said the city received proposals from three firms. Stevens and two department heads reviewed the proposals and said the most qualified of the three were Brimeyer and Springsted, Inc. of St. Paul.

According to Stevens, some council members had expressed concerns with Springsted’s financial work for the city, although she said Springsted’s financial and organizational consultants work independently.

Stevens said Brimeyer offers an excellent alternative to Springsted. Brimeyer is less familiar with Willmar, but has worked for similar-size Minnesota cities and is well versed in organizational analysis.

Springsted’s cost is $23,000 plus expenses not to exceed $1,500. Stevens said Springsted completed organizational studies for Willmar Municipal Utilities and Kandiyohi County, and Springsted would have less “ramp up time’’ in getting started.

During Monday night’s discussion, Rick Fagerlie said the study may or may not be needed. But he said Stevens has been with the city for almost a year and half and he said the council wanted a new administrator that could tell the council what direction that person wanted to take the city.

Fagerlie said the study is like a fad. He said Swift County, Kandiyohi County, Willmar Utilities and Willmar School District all did studies. Fagerlie said he did not see the need and said he wanted to hear discussion first from department heads and Stevens because employees have good ideas.

Labor Committee member Denis Anderson, who was elected to preside as acting mayor for Mayor Frank Yanish, who was absent, said the council talked about doing this in late summer last year and held off. The study was brought to the council’s attention a few weeks ago and the council approved the concept, he said.

“What we’re doing here is merely following through on what the council had asked us to do,’’ Anderson said.

Labor Committee Chair Steve Ahmann said from the city administrator’s perspective that Stevens would value an outside source to perform the evaluation. To create a friendly working environment, said Ahmann, “I think it’s better off that we do this.’’

Committee member Tim Johnson said the study is a timely project and the council should move forward with it. Johnson said the study will be helpful to Stevens to have that assistance rather than impose changes that she might like to see all by herself.

“I think the older we get and the longer we do something we tend to get real comfortable and change can be a little bit just not accepted easily and I think it’s more likely to come from an independent outside source. The cost is reasonable for what we’re asking to be done,’’ he said.

Ron Christianson said he did not oppose the study but preferred the council have a planning session or workshop when Stevens could discuss some of her ideas before hiring Brimeyer.

The council had also authorized obtaining proposals from firms to conduct a pay and classification study. The last pay study was done over 10 years ago and the city has since fallen out of compliance with pay equity regulations.

The Labor Committee on Jan. 23 discussed the possibility of having both the organizational study and pay study done at the same time. In that event, Stevens had recommended Springsted be hired to perform both studies because one firm conducting both studies would minimize overlap and duplication.

But if the council wanted to conduct the organizational study first, then she recommended Brimeyer. Once the organizational study was complete and a future structure is determined, it would then be appropriate to engage Springsted for the pay study.

The committee voted to recommend performing the organizational study first and hire Brimeyer.

But committee members could not agree and took no action on whether to hire Springsted or another firm, Public Sector Personnel Consultants of Beavercreek, Ohio, for the pay study and the matter was tabled for further discussion.

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