By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN Winsted’s city council work session Tuesday centered on what the city should pay certain positions namely part-time administrative help, firefighters, and council members.
Years ago, the council was compensated $25 for each work session, which takes place immediately before the regular council meeting.
In 2012, the council voted to discontinue that payment, in order to help reduce expenses for the city ($3,000 per year).
Council Member Bonnie Quast said she would be in favor of resuming the $25, adding that the change will not personally benefit her, because she is not planning to run for another term on the council.
Council Member George Schulenberg said he would prefer not to reinstate the work session compensation.
Council members Max Fasching and Tom Ollig, along with Mayor Steve Stotko, expressed interest in seeing how other cities handle this before making a decision.
Although there is no payment for work sessions, council members receive $195 per month for the two regular council meetings they attend, and the mayor receives $225 per month. Any additional meetings are compensated at $25.
The city plans to research what comparable cities are paying for work sessions and regular city council meetings, and the topic will be addressed at a future meeting.
City staff also plan to research what comparable cities pay for part-time administrative help.
Winsted has been hiring administrative help on an as-needed basis for $10 per hour to help fill in when regular staff members are absent.
A proposal was brought forth to raise the salary to $14.50 per hour, which would be similar to other part-time city employees, such as public works. (Part-time police officers currently make $15.50, according to City Administrator Clay Wilfahrt.)
“At $10, we’re not getting people interested,” Clerk/Treasurer Deb Boelter said.
Last year, the city used about 250 to 300 hours of part-time help.
Council members expressed reservations about raising the salary to that amount, but added that they might be in favor of a smaller increase.
“A 45-percent pay increase is tough to swallow,” Fasching said.
This summer, college student Leigha Felder will be interning as a temporary administrative assistant for the city, which will reduce the need for other part-time help. Felder will be paid $10 per hour, working up to 40 hours per week.
Felder also worked for the city part time during winter break.
Winsted’s volunteer fire department is looking into ways to attract and retain quality firefighters.
Schulenberg attended the fire department’s meeting last Monday, and said everyone seemed to be in favor of exploring ideas to increase membership.
One suggestion was to pay firefighters per call, so that they are getting paid for the amount of work performed.
Another idea was to offer a yearly bonus, instead of a pension. That way, firefighters would not have to wait as long to use the money.
The possibility of training people to serve as medics was also discussed, as this could relieve some pressure for firefighters. (Nearly 80 percent of Winsted’s calls for service are medical-related.)
Ollig said it might be good to have fire chiefs from area cities get together to discuss ideas, since they have more expertise in this area than a city council. Schulenberg said he will talk to Winsted’s fire chief to see if this can be arranged.
An article about the decline in firefighters throughout the US was printed on page 2A of the April 13 edition of the Herald Journal.