By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN The Howard Lake City Council approved a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase, and a 3 percent step increase for eligible full-time employees at Tuesday’s city council meeting in a 4-1 vote.
Voting for the increase were Mayor Rick Lammers and council members Pete Zimmerman, Al Munson, and Jan Gilmer, with Council Member Tom Kutz voting against.
The increases will be retroactive to Jan. 1, and there are nine full-time employees eligible for the 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase. Six of these employees are also eligible for the 3 percent step increase.
Three employees are at step 10, which makes them ineligible for a step increase.
The result of the increase for department heads was as follows:
• Police Chief Tracy Vetruba, who has been with the city for nearly three years, will receive the 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase and move from step 7 to step 8, which will increase his wages from $25.53 per hour to $26.95 per hour.
• City Administrator Kelly Hinnenkamp, who has been with the city for 10 years, will receive the 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase and move from step 9 to step 10, which will increase her bi-weekly salary from $2,712 to $2,864.
• City Clerk Gene Gilbert, who has been with the city for nearly 32 years, will receive the 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase and move from step 9 to step 10, which increases her wages from $28.52 per hour to $30.03 per hour.
• Public Works Director Tom Goepfert, who has been with the city nearly 23 years, will receive the 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase, which increases his wages from $28.62 per hour to $29.31 per hour.
Although a raise for public employees was budgeted in 2011, the council decided not to approve the increase because of uncertainty over what would happen with local government aid, according to Hinnenkamp.
By not allowing an increase last year, the city saved $21,008, which is also what the increase will cost the city this year.
2012 off to a good start for the liquor store
The total sales for the month of January at the municipal liquor store were $68,581, with expenditures of $64,476, for a net profit of more than $4,000.
Sales for January 2012 were nearly $13,000 more than the sales in January 2011.
As recommended by the personnel committee, the council approved allowing manager Myra Hirsch to manage the liquor store full time, and paying her 80 hours of compensatory time off.
Hirsch is finding it difficult to manage the liquor store part time, while still maintaining some hours at the city offices, and has accumulated 179 hours of compensatory time off, Hinnenkamp said.
The maximum amount of compensatory time an employee can accumulate is 40 hours.
Part of the problem is that the liquor store has lost some key staff in the last few months, and others have been sick, Hinnenkamp added.
Hirsch will be expected to reduce the remaining compensatory time to 40 hours in the next three months.
She is also in the process of interviewing several applicants to replace staff, and should be asking the council to approve those hires at the next council meeting, Hinnenkamp said.
Liquor store theft update
The city has received $100,000 for its claim with the bond company regarding the liquor store theft by former manager Aaron DeMarais.
If the bond company wants to recover any of its loss, it will have to pursue a civil suit against DeMarais.
DeMarais paid his restitution to the city as required by his sentencing. The amount of restitution was $250 to cover the bond company’s deductible.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• approved the resignation of part-time police officer Chris Pratley, and declared two part-time vacancies for the Howard Lake Police Department.
• approved a budget for the city’s special revenue funds, as recommended by the city’s auditor.
• approved a one-year membership to the Wright County Economic Development Partnership at a cost of $721.
• decided to table discussion of replacing the defibrillator at the Howard Lake Community Center, and directed staff to investigate costs of placing defibrillators in more areas throughout the community.
Currently, there are defibrillators at the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School, St. James Lutheran School, St. James Lutheran Church, Howard Lake Presbyterian Church, Howard Lake Christian Church, Joe’s Sport Shop, Memorial Park, the community building, Howard Lake Fire Department and Police Department, and Dura Supreme.
• approved replacing two civil defense sirens and upgrading one at a cost of $2,966, plus the cost of installation, in order to meet the requirements to receive narrowband signals.
• approved raising the city’s liability limits to $25,000 for damage caused by sewer and water back-ups, at an additional yearly cost of $150.
The city currently pays a premium of about $850 for $10,000 in liability.
• approved a 3.2 malt liquor license for Howard Lake Bowl.
• called for a public hearing Tuesday, April 3 at 7 p.m. to establish a tax increment finance district to assist with the construction of the assisted living facility.
• decided at the workshop following the meeting to collect the scrap metal during spring cleanup and bring it in to recycle, rather than contract to have someone do that for the city.