Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Bethany Helwig
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Personnel policy stirs debate in Sturgeon Lake


February 20, 2020

Councilor Marsha Helfman presented a personnel policy at the Sturgeon Lake city council’s regular meeting on February 11. She requested the council read through and make comments on by the next meeting.

A special meeting to discuss the policy was proposed by Councilor Adam Langhorst who wanted to go over it as a council.

City Clerk Loralea Beede-Slocum voiced her opinion the proposed policy was “a little bit over the top for a small office like ours. We were hired without all this. We have a part time job with absolutely no benefits, no paid holidays, none of that, so there needs to be flexibility in a position like that. … Also, a majority of our job is based on due dates and what’s coming in the office. It varies day to day, week to week.”

She said she had spoken with other clerks whose cities receive personnel policies from their auditors so they are tailored to their specific size and operation.

“The personnel policy was my attempt to try to come up with something because I do feel like we do need some kind of policy.” Helfman said the policy was to be used as a starting point because of an issue with staff going over the approved hours per week. “Hours approved are 24 to 32 hours. So I guess I do have a concern about us going over and above that because we do have a budget and that’s what they were hired on.”

Due to engagements in the month of March, Deputy Clerk Kathleen Bennett requested that any special meeting be set out. Helfman said she was okay with a date further out if in the meantime staff stuck to the approved hours and had special approval for additional hours first.

“There are a lot of things being completed now that were not completed before. … Trust me, there is no time being wasted,” said Clerk Beede-Slocum. “Any time Adam, Todd, Jessica comes in my office, I am up to my eyeballs in stuff. So do you want the work not to get done then?”

“I guess I’m okay with them working whatever hours they need to get the stuff done,” said Adam Langhorst.

“I’m simply going back to what we hired her for,” said Councilor Helfman. “You guys had talked earlier. Adam you had made a quote about, you know, you want to make sure we aren’t spending money we shouldn’t spend and we were talking about $500. We’re talking about a lot more right now.”

A decision was not made regarding hours at the time, but a special meeting was scheduled for April 27 at 6 p.m.

Public works employee Scott Helfman stated his desire to no longer work on call.

“I don’t get anything for being on call. I really don’t want to be on call.” He clarified not only for water and sewer duties but for requests to clear snow around the city as well. Helfman said he had also been paying for backup out of his own pocket to help with on call emergencies. The council said that payment for such work should be made by the city and not from his own personal finances.

The council discussed different pay possibilities, including putting Helfman on salary with an updated and clear job description to cover on call emergencies. The matter was tabled until a solid proposal could be brought to the council at the next meeting.

When reviewing the status of the budget, Councilor Helfman pointed out that the maintenance/supplies portion was already 60% used when it should be at 8%. Langhorst said it wasn’t an issue but Helfman argued “if we have a budget, we should follow it.”

“How much time do we want to spend tracking down a few hundred bucks?” said Langhorst.

Councilor Rick Lewis said someone was interested in purchasing the property at 9010 Royal Avenue but they would like to live in an RV there.

He noted, “That is completely up to the council. I know that there’s been other complaints about campers being in town and not building a structure.”

Mayor Todd Danelski said permanent structures were preferable in the city, but there was nothing in their ordinances prohibiting the use of a camper.

Dissent was voiced from the audience. “My thoughts as a citizen … I wouldn’t like that. I know there’s no ordinance right now, but I want to ask the council to consider maybe updating for future development. … I don’t want a bunch of campers coming in and devaluing my property. We put a lot of time and money and effort into our property and I would really hate to see campers popping up.”

The council discussed a bill of over $4,000 for work on the city truck which was far over the budgeted $800 for repairs. The council approved payment of the bill but tabled the matter of continuing work on the truck, which is still in need of additional repairs.

The city plans on conducting an inventory of city owned property in the spring. It was pointed out that they were missing a 1971 Chevy that the city has a lien on but were unsure what had become of the vehicle.

In other business, the council approved removing the time limit on meetings (2 hours) from the City’s bylaws.

The council passed a motion to repair a pump that went down at station three.

The quote for the water tower cleaning was tabled until they could receive at least one more quote as required by state law.

The council approved to send Scott Helfman to rural water training in St. Cloud.

A purchasing card policy was approved.

A gambling permit was granted for the Knights of Columbus bingo.

Jordan Zeller of the East Central Regional Development Commission gave a short presentation to the council about services they offer to help keep business local as well as community and economic development.


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