By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN Following an exceptional evaluation of Howard Lake City Administrator Nick Haggenmiller by the city council, a salary increase and additional benefits were negotiated during a workshop Tuesday.
The council agreed to many of the recommendations set forth by the personnel committee, and formal approval is scheduled to take place at the city council meeting Tuesday, July 2 at 7 p.m.
The personnel committee decided its recommendations were a fair compromise between Haggenmiller’s wants and needs, and the best interest of the city.
“Nick brings a level of talent to the city that can only be viewed as an asset to the citizens of Howard Lake,” states the letter from the personnel committee to the council.
It goes on to state some of the tough issues Haggenmiller has taken on as administrator already, including the Munson Lakes Nutrition project, hiring a new police chief, and continuing the efforts of HL Thrive.
“In the more technical areas of local government management, Nick has also displayed a keen adeptness,” the letter continues, noting Haggenmiller has offered alternative solutions in terms of budgeting, investments, and code enforcement that benefit the city.
The letter outlined the personnel committee’s recommendations to the council, noting they are “based on several factors, including needs brought forth by Nick himself and comparing the employment specifics of Howard Lake to surrounding communities.”
“I’m fighting for a higher dollar amount, but I need this to be amicable,” Haggenmiller told the council during negotiations, noting he did not want anything that was decided to change the positive work environment and relationship he has with the city.
Haggenmiller, who began his duties in Howard Lake in August 2012 at step 4, a salary of $63,915, noted he was due for an evaluation after six months according to the terms of his contract.
If the review had been satisfactory, he would have moved to step 5. However, due to an oversight by the personnel committee, the review did not occur.
At one year, he is to receive another evaluation, again moving up a step if satisfactory.
Haggenmiller also argued that the city did not give him credit for two years of graduate school when he was hired. If it had, he would have started at step 6, and then moved to step 7 with a satisfactory six-month review.
He felt it would be fair to move to step 7 ($69,842) immediately, and then step 8 ($71,937) January 1, 2014, he said.
Haggenmiller pointed out the fact that the former administrator for the city of Winsted had less experience than him, and was compensated at a higher salary.
“Winsted will hire another administrator in a month for more money with less experience,” Haggenmiller noted.
Another request by Haggenmiller was for two weeks of vacation time per year, rather than earning vacation time the same as other employees. He noted that other employees earned compensatory time, but he does not because he is salaried.
“I’m trying to balance as best I can my selfishness and your comfort level,” Haggenmiller said.
The personnel committee’s recommendation was to move Haggenmiller from step 4 ($63, 915) to step 6 ($67,807) immediately, with back-pay of $1,946 to make up for the difference in salary between step 4 and step 6 from the time the six-month evaluation should have been performed.
Council Member Tom Kutz noted that the salary increase was “a pretty big jump,” adding that wages have always been his pet peeve.
“It is and it isn’t,” said Mayor Pete Zimmerman, who also sits on the personnel committee. He noted that when the city could, it should reward the work of good employees in order to retain them.
Zimmerman also noted that his typical response to some of Haggenmiller’s arguments is usually, “That’s your tough luck,” but that three city employees will be earning a higher wage than their supervisor once the new police chief begins his duties.
He also noted that the new police chief was given everything he asked for when the contract was negotiated, but Haggenmiller was denied the few things he requested when hired.
The request for an additional two weeks vacation per year did not make it out of the personnel committee. Instead, the committee recommended a one-time allocation of two weeks of vacation for this year only.
It was noted that this request was made, and granted by the personnel committee, because Haggenmiller’s wife will soon have a baby.
However, the full council was not comfortable with the amount of vacation time recommended.
“Four weeks of vacation right out of the chute like that, I don’t know,” Kutz said, noting everybody else has worked for their vacation time.
He also used the new police chief as an example, asking what the council would do if he decided to come forward with a proposal for more vacation.
It was noted that although Haggenmiller doesn’t receive compensatory time, one of the benefits of being salaried is the ability to take time off when needed.
The council by consensus approved granting one additional week of vacation.
Other recommendations of the personnel committee were a cell phone stipend of $65 per month; allowing Haggenmiller to seek outside employment with council approval; and paying for membership in International City/County Management Association, Minnesota City/County Management Association, and Salvarada Leadership Academy at a cost of approximately $1,000.
Haggenmiller’s severance package was also renegotiated. He will receive four months severance pay, including health insurance and payout of his vacation balance, if the city terminates his employment for any reason other than malfeasance, illegal activity, or documented poor performance.
Large net loss for liquor store in May
The liquor store showed a net loss of $36,856 in May, with total sales of $79,809 and disbursements of $116,665.
In May, there was an additional payroll of $4,704, an insurance premium payment of $13,262, a bond interest payment of $2,860, and a new scanner had to be purchased at a cost of $849.
It was noted that the inventory was high, but nothing will probably have to be ordered through the end of summer.
In looking at the sales this year compared to the past, Haggenmiller noted the council should not be daunted by the numbers it is seeing.
There is a year-to-date net loss of $34,847.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• set a public hearing for Tuesday, July 16 during the regular city council meeting to consider a resolution allowing Ridgeview Medical Center to use Howard Lake as a conduit for about $5.9 million in tax-exempt bonds. If approved, Howard Lake will be compensated $5,000 for this effort. The city will not have any added liability.
“The city has helped Ridgeview in this way before,” a Ridgeview representative stated at the meeting.
• approved a variance to construct a four-season room at 1188 Maple Street SW, which will encroach on the back property line.
• approved increasing its deductible with the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust from $250 to $1,000 in order to potentially save the city $2,888 annually.
• approved the purchase of a freezer at a cost of about $1,500 for the municipal liquor store.
• approved allowing liquor store manager Myra Laway and one employee to attend food safety training classes at a cost of $300.
• approved a $65 per month cell phone stipend for Haggenmiller and Laway, whose responsibilities require them to be available during off-duty hours.
• approved an additional $200 per pay period for Howard Lake Police Officer Darek Szczepanik while he serves as interim police chief.